Eighteen Bridges - Winter 2013

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Stories That Connect FEATURING Marni Jackson Siobhán Mannion Carolyn Smart Elizabeth Withey Clive Holden Kevin Chong Timothy Caulfield Craille Maguire Gillies PLUS

New Fiction from Jasmina Odor

FOOD FIGHT! What High End Restaurants Are Doing to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside


The Gwyneth Paltrow Way


Why is Algeria Disowning Albert Camus?

She is a thing of beauty.

stellaartois.com Must be legal drinking age. TM/MC InBev NV/SA.

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Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon.Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. – E. M. FORSTER, HOWARDS END


Kevin Chong

24 It’s Getting Hot in the Kitchen

Gentrification in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside ARTS AND CULTURE

Marni Jackson

30 Screened

Why aren’t women making more films? THE MEMOIR BANK

Elizabeth Withey

36 Spirit Chaser

How much do we inherit from our parents? ON THE RECORD

Curtis Gillespie

42 Rebel Without Applause

November 7, 2013 was the birth centenary of Albert Camus, Algeria’s most celebrated writer. The country didn’t throw a party. PROFILES

Omar Mouallem

50 The Kingdom of Haymour

Immigrant, Barber, Theme Park Developer, Mental Patient, Self-Mythologizer, Terrorist, Supreme Court Victor, Hero, Senior Citizen, Canadian FICTION

Jasmina Odor

60 His

What do we really own?




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Photo Ryan Girard


Craille Maguire Gillies Michael Hingston

Connie Howard

07 Memory Cabin

The heart of Centreville

10 Lost Without Translation

In a country that prides itself on diversity, why don’t we want to read more of the world’s literature?

13 Hormone Hell The juice of life

Timothy Caulfield

15 I Blame Gwyneth

Richard Haigh

18 Fabricating Truth

Flush with pride IT’S THE LAW

When law fails MISCELLANY

Clive Holden

27 Can•Icons: Peacekeeping 34 Can•Icons: The Polar Bear PHOTO ESSAY

Text: Virgil Grandfield Photos: Marko Kokic

20 Original Canadian Rodeo At the Goodfish Lake track


Carolyn Smart Nora Gould Daniel David Moses Rachel Rose

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Clyde Barrow thinks on Buster’s party Bartlett pears ripe in the blue bowl Song With Two Notes Golden Age SOUNDINGS

Scott Messenger Jay Smith Jennifer Cockrall-King Paul Matwychuk

65 Reading Labels

Sometimes smaller is better

67 The Path of Your Own Choosing Walking tall

69 It’s Back. Bacon.

Our bizarre bacon addiction

71 A Thirst for the Worst

Is the appreciation of bad movies becoming a lost art? BRIDGES

Siobhán Mannion 4

74 One Beach, Two Bridges

There’s more than one way to get there


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EDITOR Curtis Gillespie SENIOR EDITOR Scott Messenger FEATURES EDITOR Craille Maguire Gillies CONSULTING EDITORS Lynn Coady (co-founder) Paul Wilson ASSISTANT EDITOR Connie Howard GUEST POETRY EDITOR Carolyn Smart DEPT. OF FACTUALITY Head: Craille Maguire Gillies Body: Neal Giannone Michelle Kay Angela Walcott CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Marcello Di Cintio Don Gillmor Lisa Gregoire Bruce Grierson Marni Jackson Lisa Moore Timothy Taylor Chris Turner CONSULTING PUBLISHERS Joyce Byrne Ruth Kelly


ART DIRECTOR Kim Larson WEBSITE Gunnar Blodgett UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA LIAISON Marie Carrière BUSINESS MANAGER Tiiu Vuorensola CIRCULATION & NEW MEDIA COORDINATOR Jason Purcell Eighteen Bridges ISSN 1927-9868 is a not-for-profit magazine published through the Canadian Literature Centre at the University of Alberta, 3-5 Humanities, University of Alberta Edmonton, AB T6G 2E5 Canada. The production and design of Eighteen Bridges, along with publishing consultation, is provided by Venture Publishing Inc. Occasionally, Eighteen Bridges makes its subscriber list available to like-minded magazines for one-time mailings. Please contact us if you would not like to receive these mailings. Subscriptions are four issues for $25.95 plus GST. To inquire about advertising, subscriptions and back issues, contact ebmag@ualberta.ca or visit eighteenbridges.ca All contents copyright 2013 and may not be reproduced without the permission of Eighteen Bridges. PM 40020055

A site devoted entirely to Canadian books * put FSC LOGO HERE

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CONTRIBUTORS TIMOTHY CAULFIELD is a cleansed and detoxified Canada Research Chair and Trudeau Fellow from the University of Alberta, and author of The Cure for Everything: Untangling the Twisted Messages about Health, Fitness and Happiness. KEVIN CHONG is the author of five books, including Northern Dancer, which is due out in April 2014. His writing has appeared in The Walrus, Maclean’s, and Chatelaine. He lives in Vancouver and teaches Creative Writing at UBC and SFU. JENNIFER COCKRALL-KING writes about the culture, politics and social history of food. She ingested a maple-bacon milkshake for her current Eighteen Bridges column. CURTIS GILLESPIE is the editor of Eighteen Bridges. He once played goal for the University of Alberta soccer team. CRAILLE MAGUIRE GILLIES is a National Magazine Award-winning writer, features editor for Eighteen Bridges, and freelance editor at the Guardian. NORA GOULD writes from east central Alberta where she ranches and volunteers in wildlife rehabilitation. I see my love more clearly from a distance is her award-winning poetry collection. VIRGIL GRANDFIELD is a writer based in Lethbridge. He grew up in Texas and on the road as the son of a traveling preacher and has worked at everything from hot dog man and beekeeper to human rights advocate and overseas delegate/spokesperson for the International Red Cross.

MARKO KOKIC grew up as a Croatian immigrant in Canada. Over the last thriteen years he has devoted his photographic work to humanitarian organizations, covering war, natural disasters and poverty in more than fifty countries. He has recently been revisiting Canada to see his adopted country with fresh eyes. He lives in France. SIOBHÁN MANNION writes short stories and radio plays. She is the recipient of a MacDowell Colony Fellowship and the Hennessy Award. She lives in Dublin where she works as a radio producer in RTÉ. PAUL MATWYCHUK is the general manager of the independent Edmonton publishing house NeWest Press. He is also an award-winning actor and playwright, and the resident pop culture columnist for Edmonton AM on CBC Radio. SCOTT MESSENGER is the senior editor of Eighteen Bridges. He lives in Edmonton, where he’s a full-time writer and communications specialist, and amateur musician. OMAR MOUALLEM is the Edmonton Public Library’s 2013 Writer-inResidence. He has contributed to The Walrus, enRoute and the Globe and Mail. DANIEL DAVID MOSES’ books of poetry are Delicate Bodies, The White Line, Sixteen Jesuses and A Small Essay on the Largeness of Light and Other Poems. He’s also a playwright.

RICHARD HAIGH is a professor at Osgoode Hall Law School and a co-director of the York Centre for Public Policy and Law.

JASMINA ODOR is a writer whose fiction and reviews have appeared in many Canadian magazines and anthologies, most recently in the Malahat Review. She writes and teaches English and creative writing in Edmonton, Alberta.

MICHAEL HINGSTON is the books columnist for the Edmonton Journal and author of the novel The Dilettantes. His journalism also appears in the Globe and Mail, the National Post, and Alberta Venture magazine, among other places.

RACHEL ROSE has published poems, short stories and essays in Canada, the U.S., New Zealand and Japan. Her most recent collection, Song and Spectacle, won the 2013 Audre Lorde Poetry Prize in the U.S. and the Pat Lowther Award in Canada.

CLIVE HOLDEN works on the Eighteen Bridges loading dock. He’s lived in five Canadian provinces and has driven through the rest, except for Newfoundland. He loves them all equally, but some more equally than others.

CAROLYN SMART’s sixth collection of poems, CAREEN, will be published in 2015. She’s taught Creative Writing at Queen’s University since 1989 and is the founder of the Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers.

CONNIE HOWARD is former health columnist at Vue Weekly, has published in Alberta Views, and is currently assistant editor at Eighteen Bridges. She has been blogging her post cancer experience at conniehoward.wordpress.com.

JAY SMITH is an Edmonton-based writer and editor. Her nonfiction has appeared in Reader’s Digest and the Los Angeles Times, among others. Her poetry has appeared in various magazines, including Rampike and Dandelion. Her chapbook The Plain Jane Plains was a runner-up for the Writers’ Guild of Alberta chapbook award in 2013.

MARNI JACKSON is the former Rogers Chair of the Literary Journalism program at the Banff Centre, where she is now on the faculty of the Mountain and Wilderness Writing program. She has won numerous awards for her journalism and her fiction can be read online at www.hazlitt.com.

ELIZABETH WITHEY is a writer, journalist and artist. She has been on staff at the Edmonton Journal for nearly a decade. In 2009, she won a National Newspaper Award citation of merit for arts reporting. She is also the creator of One Hundred Widows (onehundredwidows.tumblr. com), an art project about single earrings and solitude.


We at Eighteen Bridges are honoured to be publishing you, and we thank you for sharing your talent and vision. 2013 NATIONAL MAGAZINE AWARDS


WINNER, GOLD MEDAL Humour: “The Hairs About Our Secrets,” Jessica Johnson WINNER, SILVER MEDAL Society: “Burden of Proof,” Christine Fischer-Guy HONOURABLE MENTION Sports & Recreation: “Ya Gotta Believe,” Timothy Taylor Poetry: “Rothko via Muncie, Indiana,” Karen Solie Essays: “Sea Hitler Skank,” Billie Livingston Society: “Why Knot?” Max Fawcett Profiles: “The Populist,” Curtis Gillespie Arts & Entertainment: “Publish Then Perish,” Lynn Coady Fiction: “I Feel Lousy,” Caroline Adderson Personal Journalism: “The Hairs About Our Secrets,” Jessica Johnson

WINNER, Arts, Culture, And Entertainment: “The Populist,” Curtis Gillespie WINNER, Public Issues: “Theatre Of War,” Jonathan Garfinkel WINNER, Gold Award Best Article - Alberta/NWT: “Why Knot?,” Max Fawcett WINNER, MAGAZINE OF THE YEAR - Alberta/NWT: Eighteen Bridges FINALISTS Fiction: “I Feel Lousy,” Caroline Adderson Profile: “Burden Of Proof,” Christine Fischer Guy Profile: “The Populist,” Curtis Gillespie Public Issues: “Burden Of Proof,” Christine Fischer Guy Travel And Leisure: “The New Karoo,” Fred Stenson Best Photograph - People And Portraiture: “The Populist,” Dan Sackheim Gold Award Best Article - Alberta/NWT: “The Populist,” Curtis Gillespie Gold Award Best Article - Alberta/NWT: “Glorious And Free. Mostly.,” Russell Cobb Magazine Of The Year: Eighteen Bridges

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WINNER, Gold Medal, Fiction: “I Feel Lousy,” Caroline Adderson WINNER, Gold Medal, Poetry: “Rothko via Muncie, Indiana,” Karen Solie WINNER, GOLD MEDAL, Profile: “The Populist,” Curtis Gillespie WINNER, SILVER MEDAL, Alberta Story: “Glorious And Free. Mostly.,” Russell Cobb WINNER, SILVER MEDAL, Essays: “Why Knot?,” Max Fawcett WINNER, SILVER MEDAL, Profile: “Burden Of Proof,” Christine Fischer Guy FINALISTS Essay: “Psychiatry’s Best Guess,” Sophie Lees Essay: “Ya Gotta Believe,” Timothy Taylor Feature Writing: “Thanks for Nothing, Pop,” Scott Messenger Poetry: “Turtle Mountain,” Tim Lilburn

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SPAN Reporting back


The Heart of Centreville


he town of Centreville sits on the northeast arm of Newfoundland, and is not near the centre of anywhere at all. To get there, I exited the Trans-Canada Highway and headed ninety minutes down a two-lane road studded with small towns. The speed limit most of the way was forty kilometres an hour, which Newfoundlanders appeared to universally obey. Eventually, the driver in the car ahead pulled over to let me pass. I arrived in Centreville by late morning, but the town was so inconspicuous that I was in the neighbouring village before I realized I’d missed it. I did a U-turn in my rental car, headed past the town hall and the blueberry factory, and a few moments later arrived at the home of Esther and Stu Rogers.

Esther greeted me at the back door, clasping my hand warmly and leading me past two coolers by the back door, packed with a picnic lunch. Stu was out buying fuel for the boat. They kept a cabin in Round Harbour, a t went yminute boat ride away, and were taking me over for a visit, not only as a gesture of Newfoundland hospitality, but also to give me a glimpse of what life was like for traditional outport communities before people were forced to resettle. I’d seen photos of saltbox homes being towed across the water to new communities during the government’s long, emotional relocation program, but could only imagine the places they had come from. Esther and Stu are both in their late seventies. They have lived in Centreville since 1961, when everyone from their

outport communities—she is from Fair Island, he is from Round Harbour, just across the way—packed up and sailed all their worldly goods to the mainland. They abandoned their homes during Premier Joey Smallwood’s resettlement programs of the 1950s to 1970s. Smallwood believed that fishermen were living an impoverished, third-world life. Modernization through new fish processing plants to feed the burgeoning frozen fish market, hydroelectric plants, and paper mills would bring prosperity and secure their future. “This shining shovel, a symbol of new life and economic development for the province,” the premier said, posing at a construction site in an archival film, “is ready to turn sod anew in another step in the growth of Newfoundland.” WWW.EIGHTEENBRIDGES.COM

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When Smallwood became premier, approximately 300,000 people lived in a province one-third the size of England. “For some years past, there has been a lot of talk about the way the population of Newfoundland are scattered into so many hundreds of settlements along so many thousands of miles of coastline,” he said in 1957. “It has long been felt by thoughtful people that the terribly scattered nature of our population has made it very expensive for the Government to provide public services to all the people.” It was time for Newfoundlanders to stop hanging on to the “old traditional ways,” a brochure from the 1960s reported. Relocation was the only way to prepare “the next generation” for life in a modern, urban society. The propaganda of the time cast an eye toward a gleaming new future: “Yes, today and tomorrow Newfoundland is truly on the march,” proclaimed a black-and-white promotional film. “One thing we will not do is force anyone to move. That would be dictatorship,” Joey Smallwood said. He told fishermen to burn their boats, and he promised new jobs. He spoke of “reception centres” and “growth areas.” Centreville was one such growth area, a manufactured town forged from the adrenaline of collective desperation and the autocratic ambitions of a man who had called himself “the latest father of Confederation.” At the harbour, Stu steadied their three-person skiff, and Esther and I handed down the coolers and jugs of water. “This was nothing, just an open space,” he said, as we made our way to the wharf. It was cloudy and the air smelled of wood smoke. We passed hills covered with the green tips of young spruce and fir trees. When the people of Fair Island, Round Harbour and the other tiny islands decided to hang up their fishing nets, they ran their schooners aground and moved to Centreville to work in forestry. Families all across Newfoundland floated their homes to similar “growth centres” or loaded them on a government resettlement barge because they couldn’t afford to leave them behind. 8

Clyde Barrow thinks on Buster’s party Clarence brought me & I were not lookin round but when the girl walk in the air just turn to somethin new blonde hair flyin firecracker eyes explorin everythin & then she seen me her face just blossom, clear intentions I couldnt let the moment pass stretch out my hand stood close next to the window so I’d show her which one was my fancy ride talk goin on around us, her blue eyes steady, hair filled with light streamin in from the porch after I kiss her she give a little smile & crushed near flat against me when I held her in my arms, she no taller than a pony thought I mighta pick her up & run heard she had a husband in the joint

she said it were not real

quick as hiccup she were bored in school, what to do in a hole like Cement City when you hurtin for more & nothin ever happens never saw another want the same so fierce to drive & be alive the way we should if we had chances & the world ran right – Carolyn Smart

The year following the move from Fair Island a fire destroyed the area around Centreville. (Rumours were that it started at a lobster cookout in Gambo.) “The last two houses were hardly in the water when the fire came through,” said Esther. Stu pointed the skiff toward the open water. “There was a time when you saw more boats on the water than cars on the road,” he said. “See that opening?” said Esther, looking toward the near distance between two islands. “If you went over there you could go all the way across the Atlantic.” We passed Yellow Fox Island and Silver Fox Island, Partridgeberry Island and Sydney Cove. A smooth granite rock that arched into the air was known as Whale’s Back. After ten minutes, we reached the dock at Fair Island, which was settled in 1780 and had a population of 750 when it was abandoned two centuries later. Despite the government’s

directive to never return, many people built new cabins on the plots where their families once lived. Esther and I climbed ashore and Stu hung back in the boat, agreeing to pick us up at the other end of the island to save Esther a walk back. We headed toward a short rocky hill covered with crackerberries. “I’m only going that far and then I’ll stop,” Esther announced, as much to herself as to me. She has arthritis in her hips, but was compelled to keep walking. “I used to run up this hill,” she said. She knew what was on the other side, but wanted to have a look anyway. To our right was an old cemetery with white stone markers; to the left, a slope of rocks she and her friends played on. This was how they spent their evenings on Fair Island as children, walking and running over the rocks, ice skating in winter on a frozen bog. Down among the cabins were white signs where the town store and a church and other establishments had been. In


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1946 there were three churches on Fair Island. People from Pork Island, Sydney Cove, Round Harbour and the other smaller islands—the “people across the tickle”—came to Fair Island to shop. The island had a government wharf and a onelegged postmaster who would stump out to the point and raise a flag to tell someone on the next island over that they had a telegram waiting for them. (At the Resettlers Museum, across from the Rogers’s house, I saw the postmaster’s wooden leg. It was a kind of puppet, with ropes to manipulate the limb and a socket for the knee.) The people of Fair Island and Round Harbour were isolated, but there was no time to be bored. Women woke at four a.m. to make breakfast for the men, and their days were filled with “making” fish, doing laundry, tending the garden and children. They kept vinegar plants to treat fevers and headaches, and drained myrrh bladders from fir trees to tend wounds. Before bed, Stu said, they readied the dough for the next day’s bread. As in other parts of Newfoundland, the men were often away, cutting trees in winter and travelling to Labrador to fish in late spring. When they returned, the entire family was busy curing the catch. Stu followed us slowly in the boat as we walked along Fair Island. We passed a small green cabin that belonged to her family. It hadn’t been kept up and looked as hospitable as a garden shed. A hundred metres or so down the shoreline, we climbed aboard the boat and steamed over to Round Harbour, where Stu and Esther came each summer. We hauled the coolers and water to the cabin, which had two serviceable bedrooms, a new boathouse the size of a double-car garage and a freshly built dock, and Stu made a fire in a small stove in the corner of the living room. “I don’t think you put enough wood in the stove. I’m cold,” Esther said to Stu, as she set out a lunch of cold roast chicken, macaroni salad, slabs of sourdough bread and a spinach salad. Esther seemed embarrassed she hadn’t made the food herself, but said she had been too busy; the previous day she’d had to drive all the way to Gander for a doctor’s appointment.

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Stu pointed out the spot at the end of Round Harbour where fishermen ran three schooners ashore when the fishery collapsed. It was a small beach, buffered by shrubs and trees. Logs lay across the sand, but there was no trace of those schooners. He glanced around the perimeter of Round Harbour, his eyes following the route he used to take from his house on the other side, through the trees to the school. He ran this four times a day, coming home for a hot lunch. The trees were thick and green, and there hardly looked to be space for a trail let alone houses. Little more than fifty years earlier, people would have sat around the kitchen table of their tiny cabins eating chicken they raised themselves, or fish they caught. When they moved to the mainland and started working for a large logging company it was not merely their trade that would have changed. They lost their gardens and boats. They lost access to the water, so they had to buy more food. They had to buy land and perhaps take out a mortgage to build a house. “Moving,” Esther said, “probably tore the soul right out of you.” It was hardest for the older people, like her parents. A fter lunch, I asked her if people are nostalgic about the place and forget how hard it was to live on Fair Island. She stopped loading up the cooler, turned and said, “Yes.” She paused, but didn’t elaborate. Then she went back to her packing. We closed up the cabin, loaded up the skiff and unfastened it from the wharf. As we rounded the corner and Round Harbour passed out of view, Esther said, as if to the wind, “Yeah, that’s our cabin. I call it our memory cabin.” The rain pelted our faces as we made our way back to Centreville. With no cover, Stu squinted and steeled himself against the weather. He liked to slow and point out various sights—there’s Little Sugar Loaf, he said of a nubby rock poking out of the water—but Esther was getting cold. “It’s beginning to rain harder, dear. Bring us home.” – Craille Maguire Gillies This article was supported by an Access Copyright Foundation research grant.

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LOST WITHOUT TRANSLATION In a country that prides itself on diversity, why don’t we want to read more of the world’s literature?


he history of human civilization is, in many ways, a history of translation. We’re a chatty species, so when we’ve encountered people who spoke and read different languages than our own, we’ve found ways of communicating with them. Today it is easy for unilingual North Americans like me to take it for granted, because most important documents I need to read are written or have been translated into the one language I happen to speak. I slept through four years of high school French, and though I’ve sometimes wished I could carry on a conversation en français, I’ve never been lost without it. No wonder we are so complacent. English has long been the lingua franca of business and mathematics, and much of the international community. (Incidentally, lingua franca, the Oxford Dictionary reports, was once “a historical mixture of Italian with French, Greek, Arabic, and Spanish, formerly used in the eastern Mediterranean.”) We’re also still living through the linguistic aftereffects of colonialism. “Translation is the opposite of empire,” notes David Bellos in Is That a Fish in Your Ear? Yet without translation, scores of texts would never have made it into English. Try to imagine a society without the Bible (a combination of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek), the Magna Carta (Latin), Martin Luther’s Ninety-five Theses (ditto), Newton’s Principia (ditto again), Rousseau’s Social Contract (French), and the Communist Manifesto (German). God, revolution, and gravity itself all fly out the window. The same is true of literature. A canon gutted of heavy hitters like Cervantes, Tolstoy, Flaubert, Borges, and Kafka is no canon at all. Without translation, literature as we Anglophones know it would shrivel to a few centuries, spread across a 10

handful of countries. And let’s not forget that sometimes we even need translation for our own langauge. Otherwise, good luck attempting so much as the opening sentence of Beowulf in its original Old English: “Hwæt! Wé Gárdena in géardagum / þéodcyninga þrym gefrúnon.” Got it? You might expect that Canada, a country that celebrates diversity more than many, would value literature in translation. Close to seven million Canadians are foreign-born and around twenty percent say they speak a language other than French or English at home. Meanwhile, there are more books, in hundreds of languages, being published globally today than ever before—approximately 2.2 million in 2012. Which raises an uncomfortable question: why are so many Canadians uninterested in reading them? Each year, the Great White North publishes upwards of 20,000 titles, from novels to cookbooks to dictionaries. Take a look around your local bookstore, however, and you’ll notice that translations barely cast a shadow in the fiction section. Sure, Stieg Larsson’s Swedish thrillers are runaway commercial

successes, and occasionally a literary dark horse comes along. The most recent was the late Chilean novelist Roberto Bolaño, whose 900-page 2666 spent several weeks in bookshop displays when Natasha Wimmer’s English translation was published in 2008. But these are exceptions. Literature is a portal to other cultures, but fewer than 400 million people speak English as a first language, leaving billions unrepresented on the bookshelves of the nation. In this light, it is hard to see Canada’s literary climate as much more than an oversized mirror. American advocates for translation have a phrase that sums up the feeling about the state of world literature in English: the three-percent problem. It refers, albeit unscientifically, to the percentage of books published in translation in the United States each year. The United Kingdom is also a member of the three percent club, a startling figure when you consider that twenty-four percent of all books in Spain are translated, while in Germany it’s twelve percent. “The Anglosphere is self-referential,” says Hugh Hazelton, a poet and Governor General’s Award-winning translator


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in Montreal. “And if you look at it historically, when countries reach the apex of their political power, which often entails a certain cultural power, too, they aren’t too interested in translating abroad.” In other words, North America doesn’t translate contemporary fiction because it doesn’t have to; we can get by just fine without it. But at what cost? Hazelton specializes in Latin American literature, and taught for many years in the classics, modern languages and linguistics department at Concordia University. He’s seen first-hand the power and beauty of work by writers in Central and South America, some of which he’s brought into English, where it has found a small but devoted audience. But the majority of foreign books never make it across the border, which is a shame. Ever since a professor opened my eyes to world literature as an undergrad—seeing “Week 1: The Odyssey” on a syllabus has a way of grabbing your attention—my world view has been shaped by the novels with no Canadian equivalent. Their virtues range from the purely aesthetic (Argentina’s César Aira specializes in a unique brand of one hundred page howitzer) to the socially engaging (Horacio Castellanos Moya’s novels bring to life the conflicts in his native El Salvador as news reports cannot). The best writers, like Bolaño, do both. And Latin American fiction is actually a relatively popular choice for translation into English. That’s to say nothing of Japanese, African, or Russian fiction, of which almost statistically zero makes it into North America. Often, the only way Anglophiles can gain literary insights into such cultures is when an English author writes about them on their behalf. I’d hazard a guess that that we learned more about Nigeria from 419, the Giller Prize-winning novel by Calgary’s Will Ferguson, than from any fiction actually written by a Nigerian—if only because so few are available in English. I met Hazelton this past June at the Banff International Literary Translation Centre (BILTC), where he is a co-director. The BILTC is part of the Banff Centre, set amidst the Canadian Rockies. There are so many grazing deer nearby

Bartlett pears ripe in the blue bowl The cast iron frying pan was almost too heavy for my wrists when I carried the frittata, set it on the trivet. I was a little drunk on the throatiness of pullets rolling their aws. In their shed, leaning, propped up, the sun passed through knotholes, splintered wood, tongued dust motes, chaff, into red-gold haze. The rhythm in my shoulders, my torso, of pailing grain to cows, forking hay. The bedding pulled in from the line. Mab, a pup then, sound asleep on her blanket, her paws folded along her forelegs. The south door opens directly into the kitchen from outside. Our summer student, elegant, carried her quiet grief – her mother dead these few months, her father estranged. Charl followed her in: I saw that he had fallen in love with her gentleness, her accent, her search for words to humour him. I didn’t speak of this , didn’t hear his denial, until after I had walked uphill towards the well, the moon riding on the horse’s withers. I should have waited until I knew to let it go, but that was months later. Even then I didn’t fathom. I want to be forgiven. – Nora Gould

that they have been known to wander into buildings with front doors propped open, and are later discovered milling about by the vending machines. For three weeks each year, Banff becomes a Mecca for literary translators, hosting fifteen translators from around the world, guest lecturers, authors and students. “Canada’s always been a pioneering country in translation,” Hazelton tells me between sessions, “but always English-French, French-English. Domestic.” Almost every translated work put out by Canadian publishers has received money from the Canada Council for the

Arts, and the Council only funds projects that come into English, French, or an aboriginal language. The author and translator must also be Canadian citizens or permanent residents, and the publisher must be owned and operated by a Canadian. These reliable subsidies typically grant our translators higher wages, more recognition (the translator’s name usually appear on the book’s front cover), and better conditions than many of their international colleagues. But because the Council’s mandate is to promote Canadian art and culture, there’s no impetus to give the reading public better access to the latest German WWW.EIGHTEENBRIDGES.COM

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novelist, or the greatest Bangladeshi poet. If a publisher does produce a translation, there’s a $25,000 Canada Council funding carrot dangled in front of it to make sure the book comes from Quebec, not France. Daniel Wells, publisher and

newspaper editor asking him, “Why are we publishing non-Canadians anyway?” The dearth of fiction in translation may simply be a side ef fect of this literary patriotism. Things may be improving. In recent

CanLit has a tradition of relentless self-championing. editor of the small but mighty literary press Biblioasis, in Windsor, Ontario, says there’s also a lingering perception that translation somehow distorts or sullies the “real” text. All of which makes that $25,000 even more dif ficult to turn down. But it’s not entirely about money: CanLit has a tradition of relentless self-championing. Exclusively devouring Canadian fiction is a point of pride for many readers. Wells recalls one

years, Hazelton has seen attendance at internationally themed industry events and book fairs steadily rise. So have the number of university programs across North America dedicated to translation. Among Canadian publishers, Toronto’s House of Anansi recently founded A rachnide, an imprint dedicated to French- Canadian writing (which is also under- represented). Biblioasis, meanwhile, started a series dedicated to international fiction back in 2007 that is

now ten titles deep. It didn’t receive Canada Council funding for most of these translations, but the series has helped the press make waves in countries, even though. In Quebec, things are looking even brighter—perhaps in part because it has never had the same luxury of forgetting that translation exists. The Quebec publisher Écrits des Forges, has a longstanding series of co-editions with publishers in Mexico; Hazelton estimates it’s published more than one hundred books of poetry this way, introducing a fleet of Quebecois poets to Mexican audiences and vice versa. Such projects don’t quali f y for translation grant money, but there are other benefits. “I’m not kidding you,” Hazelton says. “That has had an enormous impact. There are all these Mexicans who know a lot about Quebec poet r y.” Not to ment ion a l l t hose Quebeckers who know quite a bit about Mexican poetry. – Michael Hingston

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HORMONE HELL The Juice of Life


t was four a.m. I was hot, aching, prickly, and definitely awake. Again. This, two years after finishing treatment, was my new normal, and it terrified me, made me wonder if it might signal the return of my cancer. The urge to throw a brick through the window was strong. I did my breathing, my visualization, my meditation. An hour later, I gave up and limped to the kitchen to make tea. I was fifty-seven but felt ninety, or at least what I imagined it would be like to be trapped in the biochemistry of a ninety-year-old. But why? Was it the after-effects of the surgical removal of my ovaries coupled with chemotherapy? Nobody warned me

that saving my life would mean the quality of my life would be so completely altered. I ached in my joints, my bones, my muscles, and felt that the blood that once f lowed in my veins had been replaced with a heavy sludge. My chiropractor told me my spine was straight where it was supposed to curve, and curved where it was supposed to be straight. I dragged myself to yoga, again and again, hoping to regain some flexibility, some strength, some calm, the ability to sleep, read, write. At yoga, between the stretching, the breathing, and the tears, the dark cloud would lift a little. I resolved, again, to

accept with grace the current state of events, although I knew that yoga, even this, just lying on the mat breathing, would leave me sore for a week afterwards. After class, I’d shower and dry my wispy hair, and be thankful that what little work I had could be done in leggings. They at least, are forgiving. At night, my husband would scratch my back, and wisely avoid suggesting any activity involving even an ounce of energy on my part. This can’t really be what it’s come to, I’d think, both relieved at his sensitivity to me and terrified that this feeling only half alive—this longing only to escape— might be permanent. Time brought little improvement. I was lonely and bored, yet aware that work was out of the question. Usernames and passwords with an epost bill had become a challenge. The reality was this: I was alive, but on some kind of fast-track to old age. Almost overnight, I’d moved from the centre of life to the sidelines with nothing to do but search for a vitality I’d once taken for granted. I was supposed to be better. Instead, part of me had disappeared. The problem was that I didn’t know which part. My doctors offered antidepressants, sleeping pills, and pain relievers, some of which I accepted gratefully, but none of which did anything to restore me to my former self. I’d panic if I left the house without aspirin. I spent money I didn’t have on an alternative therapy that offered temporary relief in the form of endorphins, love, and hope. In my therapist’s office, I’d weep, visit after visit. I was mourning, for myself. I fell in love with my therapist, and with my acupuncturist, and with my massage therapist. They made me feel a little better, sometimes for days or even weeks at a time. But it never lasted.

WHAT NOBODY HAD TOLD ME WAS THAT THE abrupt and complete hormone withdrawal resulting from the surgical removal of my ovaries, particularly when combined with chemotherapy and steroid medications, could be a little different from gradual age-driven hormone decline. A little different? How about definitely and staggeringly different. How about life -alteringly WWW.EIGHTEENBRIDGES.COM

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different. How about, Who the fuck am I? different. And now, as if I were part of some horror movie about aging decades overnight, my body was screaming for the little chemicals that keep us feeling strong and vital. I couldn’t even open a mayonnaise jar. I stubbornly refused this as a permanent state, and kept looking for answers. I knew a little about hormones, and though I’d always sworn I’d never use them, I asked my doctor about my levels. “They’re supposed to be low,” she said. But I was fifty-seven, not ninety, and shrinking, weak, miserable.

we’d been given was incomplete, and that whatever the benefits, they were no longer enough to justify the attending risks. Many women begged their doctors to allow them to continue with the therapy despite the risks. Others settled instead for antidepressants, sleeping pills, arthritis medications, and general low-grade misery. I found it difficult to believe that this was the best medicine had to offer. I wanted my former resilience, I wanted to work, I wanted to want sex. At my lowest, I cared nothing about risks. What

Our brains have more sex hormones than any other tissue in the body. Hormone Replacement T herapy (HRT) was once routinely used to treat symptoms of menopause and to protect long-term heart, bone and brain health, but it fell from its elixir status in 2002 when the results of the truncated Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) were published. That study, which looked at over 160,000 postmenopausal women over a period of fifteen years, was aborted when it became clear that the risks of HRT outweighed its benefits. While it protected on some fronts, it wasn’t enough to justify the long-term increases in risk of breast cancer, heart disease and stroke. But the reasons we initially started down the path of hormone replacement therapy remain: hormones make us feel good, keep us strong and flexible, and in their natural form and in correct balance protect us from disease. So what are we to do, those of us who have fallen abruptly and prematurely—often by several decades—to the hormonal basement? What was I to do? Accept that I was now a middle-aged woman living in an ancient body? I’d read about how unhappy Wyeth, the maker of the drugs used in the WHI, was. Their profits had dropped sharply with the study. Yet we, the women who’d lost our quality of life, were at least as unhappy about the results as Wyeth. We’d been told hormones would keep us young and vital; now we were being told the picture 14

I wanted, at almost any cost, was a life that at least faintly resembled the one I’d known. At some level, it’s all about sex. Or at least sex hormones. We need sex hormones for more than sexual function— we need them to stay strong, to prevent chronic inflammation, for memory and cognition, to alleviate anxiety, depression, and insomnia. And what they say about the brain being the true sexual organ, that’s not a metaphor, or at least, not only a metaphor—our brains have more sex hormones than any other tissue in the body. We need these hormones, but the risks of replacing them, according to the WHI, are high. What was used in the WHI, however, were hormones that had been altered molecularly for patent purposes, hormones not identical to those produced by the human body. This, to me, seems to be a critical piece of information. Bioidentical hormones—which are, as the name suggests, identical to those we produce—have not been shown to carry the same level of risk. While both conventional and bioidentical hormones are manufactured in the lab, they are more like distant cousins than identical twins, and if hormones don’t fit receptors in target cells as exactly as a key fits a lock, the long term results are significantly different. And while the risks of conventional HRT are rightly taken seriously, bioidentical hormone

replacement therapy (BHRT), according to the scientists who have looked closely at this, actually decreases our risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke. But getting my hands on bioidentical hormones was a bit more complicated than buying aspirin at the drug store. While I looked, and researched, and thought about it, I went to Hawaii, alone, hoping the ocean might calm my withdrawal symptoms and swallow my monstrous grief and rage. It didn’t, though I don’t blame Hawaii. I returned home to ever-deepening misery. But I kept looking, and while a doctor willing to prescribe conventional HRT might have been possible, finding one familiar with and willing to use bioidentical HRT was a challenge. I did eventually find one and the day I filled my prescription, I slept a solid, dreamless, Zopiclone-free eight hours for the first time in over two years. Elation, gratitude, hope—these were not things I sought that morning as much as they were evidence of the universe’s champagne suddenly uncorked and poured for me. Most menopausal women are fine without hormone replacement of any kind. Some find relief through other kinds of endocrine support that focus on herbal, nutritional and lifestyle factors. But some of us, often those who have experienced the twin body blows of chemotherapy and abrupt, surgically induced menopause, need to replace what our dead ovaries and exhausted adrenals no longer produce. Hormones. Life. Juice. I sleep well most of the time now. T he brain fog and depression have begun to dissipate. My angr y muscles and joints have begun to breathe again. The fat that mushroomed overnight after my surgery is not yet gone, but neither is it mushrooming anymore. I can climb the stairs in the river valley again. I’ve reached for an aspirin twice in the months since I began my BHRT. My levels are not yet where my doctor wants to see them. But I’m sleeping. It’s fall. The night is cool and deeply quiet, velvet. My limbs have melted into the sheets. – Connie Howard


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I BLAME GWYNETH Flush With Pride


have no idea what Anthony Weiner and Brett Favre were thinking. I cannot relate to the idea of texting a picture of your penis to anyone, especially a female one is trying to win over. This isn’t some puritanical moral high ground position. When it comes to all things related to sex, I advocate a John Stuart Mill philosophy. Two consenting adults? Knock yourselves out (if that’s what you’re into). Penis texting seems like a really stupid thing to do. For a public figure, especially if the relevant last name rhymes with or, worse, is a synonym for male genitalia, the downsides of such an action—public exposure, humiliation of your entire family, unending mocking by late-night talk show hos­t s—seem almost certain to unfold. The upsides— which are, presumably, the hope that the receiver of the text will be impressed and turned on—are both delusional and implausible. The penis-text would appear to be all risk and no benefit. In fact, it is my belief that all forms of sexting

involving photos of the human body make no sense. But I did it anyway. And I blame Gwyneth Paltrow.

THE BUILDING WAS INCONSPICUOUS AND NOT the type of structure you would expect to house the head office of a widely successful diet company. Just a block off Los Angeles’ oft-sung about Santa Monica Boulevard, the office looked like a modest walkup apartment. As I approached the door, I couldn’t help but wonder if the company’s principals lived in the same building in which they worked. There was no sign announcing “Clean.” No nameplate. Just a buzzer. While it may be low on aesthetics, the occupants of this office have made a pop-culture splash as of late, including the production of several international bestselling books and the sale of tens of thousands of Clean Cleanses, which the company website heralds as “the

most endorsed, supported and effective cleanse in the world.” If celebrity raves are the measure, it is hard to argue with two out of three of these boasts. Donna Karan, Demi Moore and many other celebrities have credited their svelte frames to this cleanse. But the motherof-all endorsements came from Gwyneth Paltrow. In fact, she has referred to it so often and so publicly, I’d simply assumed the Clean Cleanse was a Gwyneth creation, that it was her cleanse. This misunderstanding was why my journey to Santa Monica actually began in London, England, home to Gwyneth’s booming e-commerce company, goop. Gwyneth is such a fan of the Clean Cleanse that she often raves about it in her frequent goop blogs (the words “goop” and “cleanse” on a platter for the jokers among you). She has stated “this thing is amazing” and that it “worked wonders” and made her feel “pure and happy and much lighter.” She has also noted that the cleanse is something she does with the whole goop team (another image I’d prefer not to linger on). W ho wouldn’t want to feel pure, happy and lighter? Speaking with the London employees at goop about their Gwyneth-inspired experience seemed like the obvious place to begin my journey towards understanding the miracle of the Clean Cleanse. I wanted to try this wondrous product and I felt that chatting with Gwyneth’s team, or even Gwyneth herself, would start me on the right path. Given the friendly vibe of the goop website—which noted that the company was “created to celebrate all life’s positives”—I was expecting to receive a warm welcome at goop HQ. I was mistaken. Apparently, I am not one of life’s positives. I rang the buzzer to request entry to the second-floor office. No response. I tried again, then again. Still no response. I decided to implement Plan B: Sneak in. A courier was buzzed up and I slickly pulled the classic foot-in-the-door. I felt like Jason Bourne. I strode up to the goop receptionist and gave her a friendly hello, but she did not smile endearingly or even positively, or say “May I help you?” or even “Do you have an WWW.EIGHTEENBRIDGES.COM

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appointment?” Instead I got a blank goopless stare. Undaunted, I asked to see someone about the Clean Cleanse, tr ying my best to give the impres sion that I was involved in a formally arranged meeting. She looked at me as if I were a homeless man asking for money. In other words, she didn’t look at me, opting instead to pick up the phone and inform someone of my presence in the office. I waited. Then I waited some more. At the moment I sensed the imminent arrival of a goop guard, a Stella McCartney-outfitted young woman approached me. “You’re here to talk about the Clean Cleanse?” she said brightly. Finally, I thought. This is more like it. My dogged journalistic persistence had paid off. “That’s right,” I said. “I’d really like to know more about what actually takes place in the Cleanse. I want to get some details about the process and the science behind it.” She smiled. “What a good idea.” This was unfolding precisely as I’d imagined it. “Thank you,” I said. “Who would you suggest I speak with?” I imagined Gwyneth herself now consenting to my powers of investigation. “I would say Dhru Purohit,” said the charming young lady. I took out my notebook, half expecting her to lead me down the hall to the office of said person. “And where would I find him.” “Santa Monica, I believe.” Her smile was now accompanied by an arched brow. “Which is where the Clean Company is based. You know that, right, that they’re the company that makes the Clean Cleanse?” I closed my notebook. Jason Bourne did not have to implement Plan B to exit the building.

DHRU PUROHIT, THE FOUNDING PARTNER AND CEO of The Clean Program, got back to me almost immediately after I emailed him. He described himself to me as a “Sherpa of sorts,” a man who “enjoys guiding people and communities through the world of holistic healing and spiritual living.” He believes in the 16

Cleanse in much the same way Napoleon believed in artillery: It might not be the easiest thing to implement, but it can change the world. After various phone calls and emails that revolved around securing my pledge to do the Cleanse, Purohit sent a kit to my house (usual price, $425). He also invited me to the Santa Monica office to receive some pre- Cleanse advice and to meet the Cleanse Master himself, Dr. Alejendro Junger, a physician from Uruguay. He is the inventor of the Clean Cleanse and is often described in the popular press as Gwyneth Paltrow’s doctor, though “spiritual leader” would probably be more accurate. Indeed, Gwyneth’s bestselling cookbook, It’s All Good, is dedicated to Dr. Junger (a mong others) whom she describes as “her good friend.” The book contains recipes inspired by Dr. Junger’s diet and health philosophy. In the preface, she credits him, and the Clean Cleanse, with curing her of a variety of ailments, including the adjustment of her “sky-high” adrenals, the unclogging of her horribly clogged liver, and the banishment of an intestinal parasite that went undetected by Gw yneth’s conventional physicians. Given all this Gw yneth-attention, it is no surprise that Dr. Junger is a bit of celebrity himself, appearing on shows like Dr. Oz where he provides detoxing and cleansing advice. A nd so I made my way to Santa Monica. I rang the buzzer of the nondescript walk-up. Dhru Purohit himself answered. “Hey, Tim!” he said with a welcoming smile. He invited me into the office, which looked more like a contemporary open-concept home than a business. No separate offices, cubicles or desks in sight—just a large kitchen and several sofas and chairs. Dr. Junger was scheduled to arrive in a few minutes, so I took the time to interrogate Purohit about what I viewed as the biggest personal challenge I was going to face with the Cleanse: no coffee. “ I’m a cof fee addict ,” I sa id. “ I can’t stress this enough. It’s central to my existence.”

“You must give your adrenals a rest,” he said, his tone that of a grade-school teacher talking to an unfocused nineyear-old. “And you must remove the dependency. The idea that you need coffee to function, long term, stresses your adrenals. Your adrenals are your energy bank account.” I nodded and took note of the word adrenal, which I would hear approximately another nine thousand times during my interactions with Clean. Moments later Dr. Junger arrived, and it was clear from the start that the man had his adrenals in check. He projected a relaxed energy—his posture was relaxed, his voice was relaxed, his outf it was rela xed. A closer inspection revealed that he was even wearing hand-knit slipper shoes. Gwyneth’s attraction to his Zen presence began to make sense. After introductions, Purohit told Junger about my cleanse plan. Ju nger set t led i nto one of t he comfy chairs, and crossed his legs like he was about to meditate. “It. Will. Blow. Your. Mind.” He went to explain how the Cleanse works and why it’s so important, an explanation that involved numerous references to detoxification, to adrenals, to ou r body ’s energ y systems , to adrenals, to our body’s natural ability to heal, to adrenals, to the evils of gluten and, finally, for emphasis, to adrenals. Junger compared our world to a dirty fish tank filled with “toxic triggers” like plastic, pollution and drugs. “The dirty fish tank is, for us, the city. It is unnatural. The more industrialized, the more chemicalized, the more diseases there are.” At the risk of sounding unconcerned for my fellow earth-dwellers, I told him that my biggest concern was whether I could hack it or not. “I’m worried it’s going to be too tough,” I told him, my thoughts centred on the coffee ban. “I don’t think I can do it.” “ Don’t decla re somet h i ng you don’t know,” Dr. Junger said. “Keep an open mind. Go with it. You should be thinking, ‘I wonder how this is going to transform me?’”


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THREE DAYS INTO MY CLEANSE, MY FAMILY WAS ready to cleanse me from their lives. My sanity was being questioned by the hour. My family were avoiding sitting near me, looking at me, talking to me, or being in the same room with me. My eating habits were characterized as “revolting.” I could hardly disagree with their assessments. I did not feel clean, happy, transformed, pure, or even on the road to any of those states. What I felt lik and behaved like was a miserable bastard. The combination of caffeine withdrawal and hunger pangs transformed me into a snarling animal with a fuse as short as one of Gw yneth’s fabulous dresses.

including a boatload of probiotics. Oh, and no coffee or caffeine of any sort. Did I mention my family thought I was being a miserable bastard? This Spartan existence was to last for twenty-one days, but after four days I wondered how I could possibly make it. I reminded myself that Gwyneth did it on a regular basis and had to admit that she was a lot tougher than she looked.

CLEANSING HAS, OF COURSE, BECOME AN EXTRAordinarily popular cultural trend. Driven largely by celebrity endorsements, it is now a massive industry that involves the sale of special detoxifying juices (currently estimated to be a $5-billion mar-

I did not feel clean, happy, transformed, pure, or even on the road to any of those states.

And, I was told, my breath stank. Here’s what brought about this transformation. Every day, for breakfast, I sucked back a shake made from a pre-packaged powder that looked but did not taste like the chocolate milk mix I loved as a child. It was not appetizing or satisfying, and called for almond or coconut milk, since no dairy is allowed in the Clean Cleanse. This concoction was also my evening meal. Every evening. Meaning, I went to bed hungry every night. Lunches were different, in that actual food was permissible. Apples were ok, but not bananas. Lemons yes, oranges no. No raisins. I was allowed organic chicken and wild fish, but no beef or pork. No wheat or gluten, naturally. Sugar in all its forms was verboten (though the fact that many foods have naturally occuring sugar in them never seemed to get addressed). No eggs. No alcohol (which was a shame, because I really began to feel as if I needed it). I also had to consume a variety of supplements,

ket), cleansing programs (like the one I was on), and colon cleanses (which are exactly as advertised). There are also a baffling array of books on cleansing and detoxification, such as, among literally hundreds, The One Month Carb Detox, The 21-Day Sugar Detox, The 9-Day Liver Detox Diet, and The Fast Track One-Day Detox Diet. The entire trend revolves around the idea that due to all the toxins in the modern world, and all the bad food we eat, our bodies need to be cleansed. They need to be detoxified. By doing this, or so the theory goes, we will promote natural healing, reduce stress (adrenals) and “reset” (a word often associated with cleanses) our system. The subtext of cleanses, of course, is that they are used as a way to lose weight and appear healthier. Katy Perry, for instance, shouted out to the world that she went on a threemonth cleanse in preparation for a 2013 Vogue cover shoot. “I just wanted to be glowing for that cover,” she said.

But in the face of this massive celebrity and cultural propaganda wave, it certainly seemed to me, before, during and after my Cleanse, worth investigating what the science says about the practice. I can make this quick: it says that cleansing is bunk.

“DAMN, I LOOK GREAT,” I SAID, NODDING TO my topless self in the mirror shortly after a hard session in the gym. It was the last day of my Cleanse. I’d made it. It was a wretched, horrible, miserable grind, although it did get slightly easier after my caffeine withdrawal subsided. But I was unhappy and uncomfortable and unpleasant throughout. I thought back to the things I was told would happen, by Gwyneth, by Dhru Purohit, by the unflappable Dr. Junger—the purity, the happiness, the transformation, the weight loss. Did I feel pure? I couldn’t tell, mostly because I was unsure if I’d even recognize the state. Was I happier? Yes, but only because it was the last day of my Cleanse. Was I lighter? Yes, I was absolutely lighter. I’d lost nine pounds off an already relatively lean body. Nine pounds in three weeks was not insignificant. I looked back in the mirror, and was pretty sure there were ripples in certain muscles that weren’t there a few weeks earlier. I’m never going to look like this again, I mused, doing a few classic muscleman poses for the benefit of no one but my own vain self (now complicit in the vanity that, it seems to me, drives the cleansing industry). And that was when it happened. It was as if I’d been inhabited by an alien, by a different person, by someone I didn’t know or wanted to know. Without even stopping to consider the irony, the stupidity, I grabbed my phone, flexed up a bit and snapped a selfie in that terrible arm-stretched-out manner. I texted it to my wife. At least I kept my pants on.

POSTSCRIPT: Three weeks later, standing in front of the same mirror, I noted that the weight had returned to my old, flabby frame. My phone stayed firmly in my pocket. I’m scared to ask, but the truth is that I have no idea what my wife did with that first photo. – Timothy Caulfield WWW.EIGHTEENBRIDGES.COM

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FABRICATING TRUTH hile cycling last summer on the streets of Toronto, I was hit and knocked down by a car. A maneuver like that should have involved the law; the driver should have been charged with reckless driving. But that’s not what happened. As a result of that collision, a small part of my world was turned upside down and I lost some of my faith in the power of law to help. That’s because the law only operates well when it is informed by truth and honesty. Without that, law itself is hampered. Garbage in equals garbage out as a colleague of mine used to say. Let’s back up. I’m an avid cyclist. I’ve cycled up mountains in the Alps; logged hours through Tuscany; struggled through the heat of wine country in Australia; tackled the Canadian Rockies; and spent countless hours on the country roads of Ontario. And I’ve been commuting in various cities for nearly 40 years. In that time, and up until last summer, I’d only had a handful of minor accidents, all of them single vehicle ones—a nice euphemism for me being at fault or doing something rather inane on my own, without consequence to anyone else. In fact, I like to think that I’m now a highly reflective rider. I’m focused. I have a running interior monologue which goes something like this: Stay right of the streetcar track. Three parked cars ahead there is a person in the driver’s seat. Keep away in case he opens his door. Watch out for the pedestrian crossing the road – she doesn’t see you. Bad pavement up ahead, steer around. May have to swerve left up ahead because that car looks like it’s going to move into your path. Luckily no one else hears these thoughts or they might put you away. Partly because of this heightened self-awareness, I know the driver was at fault in this recent accident. He came from behind me, didn’t leave enough room as he tried to pass by. His passenger mirror struck me and knocked me off the bike. I lay sprawled in the intersection for a short while. I wasn’t hurt, except for the deep gash on top of my foot


where my right sandal had been slashed. I looked a little like a gladiator, my aged leather sandals dripping blood. The elderly gentleman driver stopped his SUV and got out. In these moments you have one sentence to set the tone for an entire conversation. So I calmly and rationally told him that what he did was stupid. He was immediately indignant. Yelled at me. After a few seconds of this, I realized nothing was to be gained by arguing, that I should pick myself up, get out of the middle of the intersection, and, since I wasn’t seriously injured, just attend to my foot at the side of the road. The man got in his vehicle and drove off. The friend riding with me went to get some water, bandages and cheap Asian flip flops. Two other bystanders came over and chatted with me. One of them had written down the license plate of the vehicle, so she gave it to me. After twenty minutes recuperating, I put on the Asian flip-flops and hobbled home, most ungladiator-like. I hadn’t planned to take the matter further until, discussing it with a few friends that evening, I was persuaded to report the incident to the police. At the station the next day, I was told to expect an officer to drop by our home. Another day or so went by and a police officer arrived at my door. I told him the story, gave him the licence number of the driver. “Why didn’t you report this when it happened?” he asked me, adding, “You aren’t badly injured.” He left, saying that he’d try and locate the driver and would get back to me. A week later, he returned. They had found the driver. They had heard his side of the story. And the end result was that I would not be charged. Apparently, an independent witness had been found who saw everything. My friend, riding behind me, was not independent. The two bystanders, one of whom gave me the licence plate, could not be located. According to the independent witness, I was at fault. “We could charge you with reckless riding,” the police officer said.

“Who’s this independent witness?” I asked. “I find it hard to believe there is such a person.” “I’m sorry. That information cannot be revealed.” As I closed the door behind him, he added, “Consider yourself lucky.” End of matter. I let it go. My only remnants a scar and a pair of flip-flops. And a smattering of broken thoughts left on the road.

IN A RECENT ESSAY IN THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF Books, Michael Chabon makes the point that part of the process of maturation means coming to terms with understanding that the world is broken. People respond differently to this message, he wrote. And while some will “pick up the [broken pieces of the world] with a vague but irresistible notion that perhaps something might be done about putting the thing back together again” the model is only ever an approximation, a failure of representation. But in that failure there is something human worth preserving. Admittedly, my minor incident would not make a front page story about crime, the police, the criminal justice system, the rights of citizens versus the police, or the nature of law. Yet, it touches on all of those things. In the little broken bits of everyday life, reflected in that crash, are clues to the whole. Like a kaleidoscope. The most alarming piece of the brokenness, and emblematic of a much broader problem facing society today, is the devaluation of truth that occurred. A police officer who, after a week, offers up the explanation that I was lucky not to be charged, fits this new reality. There almost certainly was no anonymous independent witness to the accident. Nevertheless, in the police’s view, this “solution” was a neat and tidy way to resolve my cycling incident. I imagine that the driver’s version of events (assuming they did actually interview him) directly contradicted mine. In other words, he probably claimed that I rode in an unlawful manner making it impossible to avoid me, leaving the police with the need to resolve this “he said, she said” kind of tale. Since it was a rather minor matter, the easiest

Illustration Colin Spence



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thing to do was make it go away. Invent a non-existent observer. It’s a classic whitewash—fabricate something that prevents me from pursuing a claim. I have no recourse but to give up. The file will be closed. Never mind that the law in this case is clear: a motorist who knocks a cyclist off his bike is, depending on his or her level of knowledge, guilty of either careless or reckless driving. But when perfectly good and useful laws are subverted and unable to serve their intended end, something is wrong. It’s not the law’s fault; nor will I lay the blame on an individual police officer. It’s a systemic issue. Truth is treated as fungible; replaced by just a different story. And the law isn’t always able to penetrate this switch. It’s an all-too-common problem. We see it in politicians who feel no compunction in distorting the truth, making things up, dissembling whenever it suits. We see it in business people, falsely accusing competitors

or government of wrongdoing or resorting to corrupt practices to gain advantage. We see it in the online world, where fabricating a persona, or embellishing one’s attributes, is ubiquitous. The famous quote that the first casualty in war is truth, now applies to peacetime. To me, it’s no more than (or no less than) fabricating truth. Recently, Sammy Yatim, a young Torontonian, was shot to death on a streetcar by a police officer. Spotted brandishing a knife, Sammy terrified passengers into fleeing out onto the street. A number of police officers then surrounded the streetcar. A smartphone video captured the subsequent, horrific events. The officer involved has now been charged with second degree murder. We won’t know the outcome of his case, nor the wider repercussions of this episode, for some time. Being knocked off a bike is only a tiny fragment in the life of a city; the gunning down of a young man by police is much larger. Yet they are interconnected. The

thread that binds them is law, weaving itself through both stories. What’s important to realize is that the law isn’t always effective— it needs a proper story to nurture it. In my case, the law was rendered powerless because, given the police’s response, fidelity to truth was unobtainable. In the case of Sammy Yatim, the video capture makes it difficult to manufacture any kind of counter-narrative. With countless millions bearing witness, factual truth bolsters the law and allows it to function properly. It’s good that Sammy Yatim will receive some kind of justice, however tragic his life’s end. The truth is law’s handmaiden. That’s one aspect of the humanity that Chabon sees arising from a failed world—give law a proper space to operate and it should do justice. Hide it inside falsehoods and halftruths, however, and the law fails. And I’m not sure there is any humanity worth preserving in that failure. – Richard Haigh




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ORIGINAL CANADIAN RODEO At the Goodfish Lake track

The Calgary Stampede may hold title as the world’s biggest “Outdoor Show,” but the most exciting and authentically Canadian rodeo may be at small, northern First Nations community fairs like the one at Goodfish Lake, Alberta. Four-pony chuck wagon and two-pony chariot racing most likely started in Blackfoot, Cree and Métis rodeos of the Canadian prairies in the early 20th century, and were later promoted across the North American west and southwest by cowboy showmen Guy Weadick and Cliff Claggett. Chariot racing caught on in northern prairie communities in Alberta, Saskatchewan and in southern Manitoba in the 1950s and ’60s because ponies were cheaper to raise than the thoroughbreds required for other racing elsewhere. According to fifty-three-year veteran racer Augie Rausch of Swan River, Manitoba, “In those days, you could just put a couple ponies in the back of a pickup and go down the road.” Ponies are mostly mixed thoroughbreds now, a foot taller than the original forty-six inch height limit, and some teams are hauled by eighteen-wheeler truck trailer units. Because of increasing costs for horses, vehicles, and fuel, the sport has been disappearing across the prairies over the last decade, but the wild, adrenaline-spiking, horse sporting culture remains most alive in the same communities where it originated. Today, up to ninety percent of teams and drivers in the northern prairie regions are from First Nations and Metis communities, where “Indian Tacos” and voyageur fiddle music are as big a part of rodeos as barbeque and cowboy boots are in the south. “We don’t do it for the money,” says team owner Leslie Crookedneck, chief of the Cree band at Ministikwan Lake, Saskatchewan. “We do it for the love of the sport, and because we have always loved horses.” PHOTOGRAPHY MARKO KOKIC / TEXT BY VIRGIL GRANDFIELD



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“ We do it for the love of the sport, and because we have always loved horses.” – Team owner Leslie Crookedneck, chief of the Cree band at Ministikwan Lake



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KITCHEN Gentrification Wars in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside By KEVIN CHONG // Photography GRANT HARDER


a booth in Save On Meats, at 43 West Hastings Street in Vancouver, the words “Talk is Cheap” appeared on the far wall in the same cheery colours as the signs above the diner’s counter area that read, “Damn Fine Reubens” and “It’s Time For A Sundae.” New but old-looking, the signage matched the soaring pig on the vintage neon-lit sign outside.


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“Talk is Cheap” is Brand’s comeback line for those who criticize the diner and butcher shop in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside that he revived in 2011, and which now aims to feed both moneyed, fashionable people and low-income locals. “The public perception of this place and what actually goes on here is apples and oranges,” Brand told me. “There’s a really strong community link here. People are very protective of this place.” Sitting in the booth, the broad-shouldered and tattooed thirty-eight-year-old Brand projected the image of a beefed-up poindexter. He sported two-toned resin glasses and wore his thick, brown hair combed back. As a result, he resembled Superman crossed with Gilbert in Revenge of the Nerds. Brand is neither man of steel nor wonk, but a prominent figure in the future of Vancouver’s poorest area, where per capita income is $7,000, compared to the national average of $21,000. According to City Hall’s plan to resurrect the area, business people like Brand bring jobs and pay rent on refurbished buildings that, through zoning requirements and incentives, also house the area’s low-income people. City councillor Kerry Jang, part of Vision Vancouver, the governing centre-left party that has been encouraging a mix of renter income levels, asserts that this policy creates “a situation where someone is able to pay higher rents to subsidize low-income rooms.” Some community organizers read “mix” as a euphemism for the orderly exodus of poor people. In all cities, gentrification follows the same game plan: an area falls into decline, artists and bohemians looking for cheap rent help bring cachet to the place, then it becomes Yuppieville. Depending on who you ask, Brand’s socially committed operations at Save On Meats makes him either a visionary entrepreneur or a well-disguised agent of the gentrifying ruling class. In the eyes of critics, new, independently owned establishments like his—simultaneously trendy and upscale in a city where food is the convergence point of culture, glamour and commerce—expedite the final steps in the extreme makeover. When I spoke to him one morning earlier this spring, Brand had just turned 26

polarization.” Good or bad, Brand makes publicity work for him.


Mark Brand, owner of Vancouver’s Save On Meats a taunting prank into a publicity coup. A few weeks earlier, Save On Meats’ sandwich board sign was stolen. Later, a group called the Anti-Gentrification Front sent him an image of a man in dark glasses and a hoodie crouching behind the sign. The man in the photo is raising his hands in peace (or victory) signs. Brand replaced the sign with one that included a silhouette of the anti-gentrifier and a place cut out for passersby to pose behind. For every social media post of visitors with the sign, the social entrepreneur promised to provide a breakfast to residents of the Rainier Hotel, a provincially owned drug treatment facility. “Save On Meats: 1. Jackasses: 0,” Brand wrote online. “The press was massive because of a theft of a sign. I found it hysterical,” Brand said with a caffeinated insouciance that I recognized from his starring turns in the reality shows Gastown Gamble and The Big Decision. A book of crossword puzzles sat by an ever-buzzing iPhone that he politely ignored. “Think of any other business getting in fifteen major papers nationally.” W hether it ’s praise or invective, Brand welcomes it. Out of “morbid curiosity,” Brand has read screeds by “internet terrorists” that attack him. Their “genuine” concerns about gentrification, Brand concluded, were cancelled out by “mis-facts” about his business. “I know what I do,” he told me. “My team knows what we do. And most of the city knows what we do, thanks to this media

resonance of Save On Meats is undeniable, but its precise meaning is up for grabs. To those who seek to revitalize the area through economic uplift, the eatery and butcher shop (opened in 1957 by Sonny Wosk) represents the prosperous history of the neighbourhood, back when it was the city’s neon-infused shopping and entertainment district. “Prior to the Downtown Eastside becoming a low-income neighbourhood, it was a mixed community,” councillor Jang told me. “Rich and poor all worked, lived and played together in the same neighbourhood.” Since its heyday, the Downtown Eastside has taken a nosedive into poverty and addiction. In 2012, out of a total population of 18,000, 1,600 residents were homeless; 306 of those were “street” homeless (not housed in shelter beds). An estimated 3,000 suffer from a mental illness. For many low-income locals, Save On Meats is remembered as an inexpensive and welcoming establishment operated by Al Deslauriers, who ran the shop from the late 1970s until 2009 and is widely seen as a neighbourhood guardian. “If you were poor, you could buy a slice of cheese and a massive hamburger,” recalled community organizer Wendy Pedersen. Brand’s vision of Save On Meats, a place he spent $300,000 of his own money refurbishing, melds these competing portrayals. The diner, winner of a Georgia Straight 2013 Golden Plate award, offers cleanly executed renditions of classics like chicken and waffles and Cobb salads. The less profitable butcher shop, which, until recently, took up half of the retail space, sells a range of meats and baked goods. Yet Save On Meats is also a social enterprise that serves the neighbourhood’s poor by feeding and employing some of them. As well, the entrepreneur has provided sponsorship, training and support for partners like the Greater Vancouver Food Bank, the Rainer Hotel and H.A.V.E. Culinary Training Society. Brand’s connection to Save On Meats ties nostalgically to his early days in


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Vancouver, the city he settled in after a globetrotting upbringing. Brand was born in 1975 in Dundee, Scotland. The son of an oil man, he bounced around Nigeria, Tunisia and Calgary, though he was mainly raised in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, where he got his first restaurant job at a pizza parlour at age twelve. Before coming to Vancouver, he lived in Melbourne, Australia for nine years working as a concert promoter and DJ. While applying for permanent residency, he was diagnosed with a rare kidney condition and chose to return to Canada rather than take on the burden of the medical costs. The condition is under control but its symptoms, ironically enough for a man of such restless ambition, include exhaustion. Coming to Vancouver in 2004, Brand caught the attention of the city as a bartender at the Belgian-themed eatery Chambar. He was a standout and was named the city’s bartender of the year in 2005. Western Living magazine gushed about “his Jedi-like affinity with ingredients along with his ebullient sense of humour behind the bar.” Among Vancouver’s industry professionals and food media personalities who generate the buzz that makes a restaurant sink or float, a knack for mixology is its own currency, which Brand leveraged into his first restaurant, Boneta, in 2007. Named after his mother, Boneta sat in a buffer zone between Gastown (technically, a part of the Downtown Eastside, but a well-established dining locale) and tourist-unfriendly Hastings Street. It was named one of Canada’s 10 Best New Restaurants by enRoute. “When I opened Boneta, I ate here every night,” he says, looking around Save On Meats. “ The diner counter was right where our counter is. It was W-shaped. I used to sit here with cops and cons.” Over the next few years, Brand and various partners conquered Gastown’s dining and retail scene by opening various other restaurants, lounges and shops. A live-music venue, the Portside Pub, and a pop-up noodle shop, No. 1 Noodle, opened in the area in 2013. None of these projects have attracted as much attention as his refurbished diner, which



PEACEKEEPING Canada’s prominent role in international peacekeeping has been a rich source of pride for the country. In fact, it was Lester B. Pearson who invented the United Nations peacekeeper when he suggested the UN provide neutral troops to intercede in the Suez Canal Crisis in 1956. This began a new era of sought-after Canadian diplomatic expertise. Pearson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts, as were UN Peacekeepers as a group, including thousands of Canadian men and women. For many years, Canada provided as much as ten percent of the UN’s troops worldwide. Simply put, peacekeepers assist countries in navigating the difficult path from conflict to peace. They’re deployed to implement peace agreements, protect civilians, help in the disarmament and reintegration of former soldiers, support elections and protect human rights. They deliver aid, repatriate refugees, restore shattered landscapes and train police forces. Canadian peacekeeping forces have included soldiers, police officers and civilian personnel. What’s more, Canada’s Pearson Centre trained over 18,000 people from around the world for peacekeeping duties before closing in 2013. In recent years, Canada’s participation in UN peacekeeping missions has dwindled sharply due to other military commitments. Peacekeeping has even been criticized by some as ineffective in extreme circumstances. But because their mandate is to intervene before tragedy occurs, we can never measure how many deaths and even genocides Canadian peacekeepers have helped prevent. Their many victories rarely make for dramatic headlines yet they provide a crucial and honourable service to the world. – Clive Holden

he describes as “a little microcosm” for what he hopes the area could be. “Nobody ’s of fended here,” said Brand. He glanced at a man eating alone at one table. “Nobody’s concerned that the gentleman behind us might have a disability and he’s a little agitated. Would they care five blocks that way?” He pointed west, to the city’s business district. “Oh yeah, they would. The cops would already be called.” One of Save On Meats partners and clients is Atira, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting violence aga inst women. T he group contracts with Save On Meats to provide 480 meals a day for the women liv ing in buildings Atira operates. CEO Janice Abbott described Brand as “full of enthusiasm” but hesitated to anoint him the area’s saviour. “He hasn’t

been around long enough,” she said. Abbott made a brief cameo on Brand’s reality show negotiating their eventual deal. In that episode of Gastown Gamble, the social entrepreneur is desperate for cash flow. An initial meeting goes well, but Brand realizes that he can neither make money nor provide nourishing food for Atira’s price of $2 a meal. Brand pushes back with $3.18, and ultimately prevails. (Later, at Simon Fraser University for a TED Talk in September 2012, Brand self-effacingly admitted that he initially “fucked up” the gig: “You know who doesn’t want to eat kale and chick peas? The people at the Gastown Hotel.”) Brand stands by the show, shot over a few months in 2011 and still running on the Oprah Winfrey Network, and insisted that it has “no fabrication.” In November 2012, on another reality show, WWW.EIGHTEENBRIDGES.COM

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The Big Decision on CBC, Brand took on a series of challenges—for one, he dons an apron to help raise bakery sales—to receive a $250,000 investment in his kitchen facilities. Shoehorning social problems into television plot points fed the fire of critics who thought Brand’s surname was truth in advertising. Atira was also a beneficiary of another Brand social initiative via a marketing tool: the Save On Meats sandwich token. Launched in November 2012, these poker chips can be purchased for $2.25 to be given to panhandlers in lieu of spare change. Some of the 10,000 tokens were distributed to local partner groups like Atira. Critics have knocked the token as a paternalistic ploy by a businessman cashing in on well-heeled Vancouverites who distrust the poor with money. “Ever y single one of them is re deemed,” Brand said about his tokens. “Ask the people on street who use them. They love the program. All these people who pontificate wildly, they’re not doing anything aside from that.”

SONG WITH TWO NOTES Oh so cold —and bright and clear— It just has to be the first Morning of the year. Listen. The blue over the snow-filled Fields is holding its breath. The sound of the kids making The rounds of the neighbourhood More than a mile away’s So present —New Yah! New Yah! In your ears— for a moment You’re out there with them, the snow A squeak underneath your boots, Your sister beside you tied Up snug with a ribbon-bright Scarf in her snowsuit. The cheer —That proclaiming of the year

“THIS NEIGHBOURHOOD IS THE MOST VALUABLE piece of property in North America. But it’s been devalued by poor people,” community organizer Wendy Pedersen told me. “And in order to get the value up, they”—gentrifiers, including real-estate developers, City Hall and yuppies—“need to move the poor people out.” Two blocks away from Save On Meats, Pedersen organized a protest against the restaurant Pidgin when it opened in February. In July, the protestors, carrying signs that read “Feed the Hungry, Eat the Rich” and “Social Housing Now,” moved onto another new neighbourhood restaurant called Cuchillo. Both spots were picked because they sit in buildings where low-income residents were, in Pedersen’s view, “displaced.” The Pidgin site was previously an apartment building before its thirty-two residents were evicted so the building could be updated into a restaurant and condominiums; Cuchillo sits below the York Hotel, whose low-income residents feel threatened by the high-end restaurant’s potential to spur gentrification. Pidgin isn’t the only source of upscale grub that has moved into the 28

Everywhere to everyone Before the sun rose to noon— The job well done, yielded Christmas candy, Indian Cookies, oranges and, the best Reward, homemade glazed donuts, Still warm, the tongue’s melt water. Sweet words. Yes, through the door and Frosted windows, those voices, So young, are coming, their news So old, the day a crystal. –Daniel David Moses

neighbourhood. A short walk south along Carrall Street, Cartems Donuterie sells artisanal $3 donuts; a block further away is Bitter, a gastro pub known for its beer selection and scotch eggs. For protestors, however, Pidgin’s name carried a sinister air. With its name, Pidgin plays off the idea of mixing cultures and

classes, and its cooking style mixes Asian and North American flavours. Across Carrall Street is Pigeon Park, a concrete public space with a reputation, from outside, for seediness. As Pedersen noted, pidgin languages (or “contact vernaculars” in the parlance of linguists) were used by colonialists before they plundered less powerful groups. In a neighbourhood with a ten percent aboriginal population, where activists and poets invoke the city’s place on un-ceded Coast Salish Territory as a shibboleth, Pidgin appeared less like a restaurant to these placard holders and more like a docking ship in the New World. “Only the most obnoxious people dine at Pidgin now,” Pedersen insisted. Others would lay that negative superlative on Pedersen’s protestors. Two of them were arrested. Some have harassed customers by flashing lights in their eyes. (Pedersen said it only happened once.) The picketers, their critics claimed, don’t belong to the neighbourhood—a claim Pedersen denies. “The problem with the Pidgin protest,” Roland Clarke, a local resident and organizer, told me, “is that it drives the rest of the city away from being sympathetic toward social housing.” Clarke is the secretary of the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council, which is dedicated to involving community members in decisions about the area and its institutions, and which publicly denounced the protest. “But because they’re so radical, they don’t care.” (Later, Pedersen invited me to “like” a Facebook page that blasted Clarke as “UNPRINCIPLED CORRUPT OPPRESSIVE.”) Pedersen realizes that the restaurant protests have been divisive, but believes they’ve been effective. Not unlike Mark Brand, the anti-gentrification activists in the Downtown Eastside see publicity as, at least in part, a numbers game. Once you capture the public’s attention, even with a good or bad initial opinion, you open a door for your message. “The reason why we’re fighting the restaurants is because there’s no other target that’s vulnerable,” Pedersen told me in the Carnegie Centre, the community centre and organizational hub of the neighbourhood. We sat on the second


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floor near the cafeteria selling a meaty hamburger for $2.75. During our conversation Pedersen traded friendly words with passersby. “We’ve done occupations of squats, massive delegations of city hall. We’ve protested in front of architects’ offices who were designing condos in the community. We’ve protested in front of condo sales offices. Nothing works. This [the Pidgin protest] has gotten traction.” The arguably tenuous connection that Pedersen has made between her demands for social justice—more low-income housing and a bump in the welfare rate, which has barely budged in two decades—and independent businesses is the idea of “retail gentrification.” Through this process, trendy eateries and retailers pave the road for yuppies looking for an “up and coming” new homestead and developers waiting to enable them. In this light, restaurateurs like Mark Brand are, in Pedersen’s words, the “paratroopers” of gentrification. Brand is a bigger threat than any artisanal pickle-maker because he’s not merely a single invader but one who’s hornswoggled half the city into believing that televised social enterprise can solve poverty and addiction. “I don’t think his heart is in the right place,” Pedersen said. “He’s being intentionally distracting and getting resources for himself by being the brand or facade of gentrification.” Social enterprise is “simply icing on the cake.” The cake would be secure housing for low-income residents. The problem, Pedersen concluded, is that “there is no cake.” Given this, I asked Pedersen why she and her group haven’t targeted Brand, considering his visibility? “We could do Mark Brand’s place,” she said, “but he’s got a much bigger machine.” Indeed, Brand’s community partners include heavyweights in the local progressive scene like Vancity credit union and the Vancouver Foundation. His non- and for-profit work is partly enabled by well-publicized associations with local businesses looking for Brand’s reputation for hip altruism to rub off on them. Since 2012, the Donnelly Group, the consortium that dominates the city’s bar scene, have bought their burgers at Save On Meats. His new landlord, Anthem Properties, acquired the building

in March 2013, giving Brand’s restaurant more favourable terms to the lease. (In exchange, the property’s three upper levels will be converted to office space.) Pedersen’s reluctance to attack Brand could be a reflection, as Brand suggests, of the community support behind his establishment. Brand has, in his words, “the math”: the free meals served and paycheques delivered. But when I put it to him that his altruism could also yield a profit, he didn’t argue. “I just hope that is the case in humanity,” he said. “If you see a business doing good, support them.”

WITH SO MANY CONFLICTING INTERESTS AND agendas, the battle to shape the Downtow n E ast side’s f ut u re resu lt s i n bare-knuckle marketing. The first wave of gentrification, the Woodward’s project, was kicked off with a tagline that encouraged the fashionable and affluent to take a walk on the wild side. “Be bold or move to suburbia,” was the 2006 tagline that marketer Bob Rennie proudly drummed up for the $400-million development. Weakness was turned, via rhetorical jujitsu, into strength. Of course, “boldness” was predicated on the assumption that the occupants of the 125 social housing units in the development were ghouls to be exorcised by the gutsy condo-dwellers in the other 700 market-rate condos. Pidgin protestors were criticized for their utopian housing demands and the alienating Marxist rhetoric of their supporters. But what went unnoticed was the rightward tilt of those advocating for revitalization through free enterprise. “I grew up poor,” Kerry Jang said about the protest. “It doesn’t bother me that there are restaurants that offer different foods at different price points. It gives you something to aspire to. ‘I’d like to eat there someday so I work hard.’” During his TED Talks, Brand offered a version of rule-breaking that involves self-made moxie over government intervention. “Before the wars happened,” Brand said, “there was community and looking after your own community because you were supposed to. Then taxation came into play and [advocates of] taxation said, ‘We’ll look after your fellow

man’s health, well-being and [give you] a house.’ They don’t. It doesn’t work. The system has been broken since it started. You need to work within your own community and make it happen.” Going by press reports and blog posts alone, the Downtown Eastside will be saved by either an unlikely socialist revolution or entrepreneurial superheroes swooping of f their v int age bicycles to rescue the poor. Confronted with these unlikely options, Roland Clarke has struck a pragmatic (though, to critics like Pedersen, unprincipled) path for the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council. Clarke suggested meeting at the Woodwards complex in the JJ Bean coffee shop, where my mint tea was served by a man with a sleeve tattoo and in rolled-up jeans. While activists have shunned the stylish development, Clarke is seeking to locate the organization’s offices in the building. The Pigeon Park Street Market, which the Neighbourhood Council runs, has received a sponsorship from Save On Meats. “I’m on welfare. I know most of the residents want development,” he told me. “They want more community areas and more vibrancy. They certainly want more jobs. They don’t want activists telling them what to do.” In his mind, establishments like Brand’s aren’t the problem. “The connection between an independent restaurant owner and gentrification is two or three moves away,” added Clarke. “Restaurants employ people in stepping-stone jobs.” After our meeting, I exited Woodwards for an unannounced stop at Save On Meats a block away. There was a lineup; people were turning in their sandwich tokens. The woman at the counter said there were twice as many being redeemed today than normal. “I’d like a heads-up,” she told me, looking frazzled. “They must be giving them away.” The tokens could have come from any one of Brand’s partners. Brand’s motivations, and the showmanship of his altruism, have been questioned, but there must be easier ways for a restaurateur to gain notoriety, television appearances and speaking engagements. Talk is cheap, but these sandwiches were free. EB WWW.EIGHTEENBRIDGES.COM

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Street throngs with over-caffeinated people hustling from one screening to another, and you can’t find an empty bike ring for blocks. The Toronto International Film Festival, now in its thirtyeighth year, is well established as the biggest event of its kind in the world. But TIFF was not the city’s first ambitious film festival. Forty years ago, I was part of a group that organized the 1973 Women & Film International Festival, a ten-day event at the venerable St. Lawrence Centre. We screened 130 films, dating from as far back as 1896. It was free to the public, with programs that ran from noon to midnight and with free daycare— run by men. The festival went on tour to eighteen cities across Canada, from the thousand-seat Rebecca Cohn theatre in Halifax to a quonset hut in Leaf Rapids, Manitoba. Subsidized by government grants (sic transit gloria) and buoyed by our untested belief that audiences would turn out for this sort of thing, Women & Film was a huge success. It seemed to point towards a future where more women would move behind the camera and take their rightful place in the film world.


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But it hasn’t quite turned out that way. Four decades later, just this past fall, TIFF celebrated the fortieth anniversary of Women & Film with on-stage interviews and screenings of several movies we showed as part of our program back in 1973. These events were moderated by Kay Armatage, professor emerita of cinema studies at the University of Toronto, a programmer at TIFF for more than twenty years and one of the organizers of Women & Film. On a sunny September day, when any sane person would be outside, I made my way to the Bell Lightbox for a panel discussion on the topic of women’s film festivals. A woman in an orange T-shirt, one of several thousand TIFF volunteers, opened the glass doors and I made my way up the escalator, past the glamorous lounge with the super-light grilled calamari, to the venue, a cinema on the third floor. No red velvet ropes required. I saw many familiar faces, including several from our original Women & Film crew. We waved. A sense of déjà vu quickly set in. The panelists included Debra Zimmerman, who for thirty years has been the director of the New York distribution company Women Make Movies; Norma Guevara, who runs the world’s longest-running women’s film festival in Créteil, France; and Melissa Silverstein, head of the Athena Film Festival, in New York, and creator of the highly entertaining website Women & Hollywood, which tracks the waxing and waning of women in the industry. Debra Zimmerman has attended countless festivals over the years and she tends to cut to the chase. “Our organization distributes films about women’s topics and basically people don’t care about women’s topics,” she said mildly. Silverstein then laid out the latest statistics on women in key creative roles in film. Things have improved over the past ten years, she said, but only slightly and at a glacial pace. Rina Fraticelli of Women in View stood up and said: “I find this sort of depressing, that we’re back to the same momentum that we had forty years ago.” “I’m not depressed at all,” countered Norma Guevara, of the Créteil festival. “The films we show by women are incredibly good.” Then came the unavoidable debates about feminism. Is a festival devoted to women’s work necessarily capital-F feminist? 32

“ W hat about sexploitation films made by women? Do we show those?” asked an audience member. “I’ll be a post-feminist when we live in a post-patriarchal world,” Fraticelli declared. People started to raise their voices. Things got feisty. I was reminded of our early Women & Film committee meetings and lengthy debates over whether men should be allowed to attend the festival. Kay Armatage intervened. “We’ve been having these conversations for forty years now,” she said. “Is this a good thing?” “Yes,” Zimmerman sighed. “This is what’s bittersweet about Women Make Movies, too. After forty-one years, we should be out of business by now. I wish we were out of business!” And so it was that on the fifth day of TIFF 2013, as I sat in their luminous new headquarters listening to familiar statistics about who wields the power in the world of filmmaking, I could not help but think back to the basement room—call it the Darkbox—where Women & Film began.

IT WAS A DANK, TINY SPACE REACHED BY A clandestine-looking stairwell on Charles Street, just west of Yonge and a few doors down from the cubbyhole where the Roots empire began, selling shoes with “negative heels.” Nine of us shared this office, heated in part by our huge, humming Selectric t y pew riters. A Canadian filmmaker, Sylvia Spring, had come back from the 1972 New York International Festival of Women’s Films and gathered a few of us to talk about mounting something similar in Toronto. That year happened to be a particularly vibrant time in Toronto with collaborative projects springing up among performers, video artists, choreographers and musicians. It was the era of multimedia galleries like A Space, artist collectives like General Idea and “consciousness-raising” all round. Throwing the idea of a women’s film festival into this mix was just another day at the office. In the year leading up to that first festival, we met regularly with one of our government sponsors. He was a smallish man in business attire who would sit on our padded windowseat as the nine of us arranged ourselves around him, in our semi-transparent

Indian shirts, long flowing skirts and boho vests. We all smoked (handrolled Drum tobacco in my case) and most of us wore our hair in long, straight curtains, parted in the middle. Although we were a collective (of course), the main organizer was Deanne Taylor (who later became a playwright and co-director with Michael Hollingsworth of the theatre company VideoCabaret), along with Anne Mackenzie, who worked as managing director of TIFF in its early years. Kay Armatage and film producer/distributor Linda Beath co-wrote the program notes, which remain a great primer on the range and history of women’s films. The rest of us typed and smoked, fundraised and scouted films. The early ’70s were a golden era of government-subsidized culture under Trudeau’s leadership. Women & Film raised almost all of its money through the Local Initiatives Projects, and an aptly named program called Opportunities for Youth. In return, the government got a great deal out their investment: a national tour, a free ten-day public event and a full-time staff of nine on the payroll—all for $125,000. TIFF couldn’t clean their red carpets for that amount now. We screened 400 films from every continent to select a program of 130 features and shorts, including everything from Elaine May’s first feature A New Leaf to a magnificent Russian silent film from 1921 called Peasant Women of Ryazan, which we presented with live piano accompaniment. We showed a cheerful exploitation film called Student Nurses and Leni Riefenstahl’s stunning, Nazi-approved documentary, Triumph of the Will. We were nothing if not eclectic. The festival even attracted a few stars (shades of TIFF): artist Joyce Wieland ran a free Super8 workshop, and filmmakers Shirley Clarke and Agnes Varda came to town for the event, along with Viva, one of Andy Warhol’s “superstars.” A newspaper columnist in Toronto took us to task for being spotted in a nice French restaurant, sending back a bottle of wine. Government-subsidized wine! I have fond memories of standing beside the theatre manager in the projection booth of a Toronto venue normally devoted to opera and ballet. That afternoon, we were screening Anne Severson’s 1972


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Women & Film program notes documentary Near the Big Chakra, about the rich variety of female genitalia. “For any woman who has wondered whether her genitals are standard, unusual, rare or unique,” said the program notes, “here is a movie that gives you others to compare with.” The manager watched for several minutes and then quietly retreated. After the Toronto event, we packed a selection of these films into steamer trunks and lugged the reels across the country, where local committees had organized their own events around the film programs. Screenings took place in schools, theatres or community halls. Our Quebec organizers pointed out that we had forgotten to translate the program notes into French. (One of many mistakes.) I went on the eastern leg of the tour, where we shot a lot of Super8 footage of puffins on an island off the coast of St. John’s. When we offered workshops on how to operate a camera, women signed up and made their own two-minute movies. Everything was possible. Socially and politically, the timing was right. It was the heyday of second-wave North American feminism (Gloria Steinem launched the first issue of Ms. Magazine in 1972, with Wonder Woman on the cover), which coincided with a heady nationalist moment in Canada; Pierre Trudeau was in power and government grant money flowed towards the arts. Women’s hopes ran high in 1973, so we took the success of Women &Film for granted: of course women made films; of course they were good; of course people wanted to see them. We assumed that any vestigial sexism would

be quickly eradicated, like an outbreak of avian flu, and that women would slowly but surely become more conspicuous in the film industry. We thought we were running trailers for the future. But we were wrong. TIFF began three years later, in 1976. Anne Mackenzie, Kay Armatage and Linda Beath all went on to work with the “Festival of Festivals,” as it was originally called, helping establish the programming standards for which it’s become known. To call Women & Film the “mother of TIFF” would be stretching it, but they do share some deep DNA. Then, a kind of complacency set in during the 1980s and ’90s, when people assumed that change was underway. We just had to be patient. Now, forty years after Women & Film, a lot of new research and data has emerged and it’s clear that women are still startlingly under-represented in the film and television industry as writers, directors and money people. Men outnumber women both in front of and behind the camera by a considerable margin. It varies from country to country, but for the past few years the number of films directed by women has ranged between sixteen and twenty percent. It’s true that there has been a recent resurgence of interest in women’s film festivals, with new ones springing up in Mumbai, Istanbul and Santiago. There are now more than 120 festivals around the world devoted to showing women’s work, but this interest does not necessarily correlate to more women working in film. Variety magazine recently

announced a new funding coalition called Gamechanger that will invest exclusively in narrative films directed by women. “An equal number of women and men graduate from the top film schools,” Mynette Louie, a producer and partner in Gamechanger pointed out in the Variety article. “But in the last four years, only seven percent of the two hundred and fifty top-grossing Hollywood films were directed by women—that’s a lower percentage of women than that found among Fortune 500 company boards, philosophy professors or aerospace engineers.” I managed to see about twenty movies during TIFF 2013. Nicole Holofcener’s Enough Said, a wonderfully nuanced film starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini, was at the top of my list, followed by Selfish Giant, a tough working-class drama by Clio Barnard. I had the impression there were many strong films made by women this year. But the numbers tell a different story. As film columnist Johanna Schneller reported in the Globe and Mail, of the 366 features and shorts films at TIFF this year, only sixty-eight were directed by women. And many were low-profile events, often scheduled during the dog days at the end of the festival. Of nineteen gala screenings, only one—Bright Days Ahead by Marion Vernoux—was directed by a woman. “I thought things might have changed more over the course of my lifetime,” wrote Schneller wistfully. “The root of the issue is that women don’t control the money,” Jane Schoettle, one of TIFF’s international programmers, told Schneller. “There’s a lack of confidence—which is completely sexist—about the ability of women to deliver bigger-budget pictures. A studio will bet $30 million on a guy. They won’t do that with a woman.” If this is the case, a movie business dominated by action-packed blockbusters that cost a lot more than $30 million doesn’t leave a lot of room for female directors. Given that women represent the majority of students in medical and law schools, it’s peculiar that the film industry—a creative, collaborative field where one might expect women to thrive—lags so far behind. In the old days, someone could have argued that it took muscle WWW.EIGHTEENBRIDGES.COM

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THE POLAR BEAR The polar bear is the world’s largest land predator and is superbly adapted for life in the Canadian arctic. Its enormous power, pure white coat and remote existence seem to imply a dreamlike, otherworldly nature. For thousands of years, Nanook has been a key figure in the spiritual and cultural life of the Inuit; today, the great white bear is loved worldwide, appearing in everything from contemporary art to Coca-Cola ads and manga cartoons. Popular culture has largely projected an image of the polar bear as kind and fun-loving, even as a hero to children. It’s true polar bears have been seen play-fighting together for hours at a time and even sleeping in an embrace. Yet they generally live solitary lives and can be very dangerous to humans when they’re hungry. Polar bears spend much of their time at sea, hunting seals from the sea ice throughout the Canadian Arctic. After the ice melts in spring, they can fast for months if necessary, but not forever. Their suitability for land-based hunting is limited, as most land animals can outrun them. Some confusion still surrounds declining polar bear populations and predictions of their extinction within this century. Climate change skeptics point out that an earlier form of the species lived long ago in warmer times, but this is deceptive. Temperature change isn’t the only issue: nothing can prepare the polar bear for the current, extreme rate of change of its native environment. Natural adaptation can’t happen quickly enough to save our Arctic giants, and the Canadian ecosystem may lose this keystone species and all that it has come to mean. – Clive Holden

to shoulder a 16mm Bolex camera. But film technology today is open to everyone. Something else must account for the “celluloid ceiling” that still exists for women in Hollywood and the fact that women who do direct tend to only make one or two films, often in the role of writerdirector, rather than establishing a lasting career. Television is a little kinder to women. Women in View, a Canadian non-profit organization that tracks the representation of women and racial minorities in our film and TV industry, looked at twenty-one live-action television series and came up with some fresh statistics. Last year, thirty-six percent of the television screenwriters in Canada were women. This percentage is about as good as it gets, across the media. The American situation is also improving. Toronto screenwriter Semi Chellas, for instance, 34

is now working in Los Angeles as the showrunner for Mad Men. There’s Lena Dunham, doing everything but craft service for the series Girls. Jenji Kohn, who created Weeds, has a new high-profile show, Orange is the New Black. Set in a women’s prison, its ensemble cast of female characters are neither exasperated moms nor desperate housewives. A common media trope these days is that “TV is the new film” and, if true, this may bode well for women. The financial stakes are often lower, more women producers have come up through the ranks of television and a long-running TV series also offers opportunities for nuanced, novelistic character development—the sort of relationship-driven stories that the big film studios currently shun in favour of the star-driven action pictures that sell tickets. On the other hand, of the eleven

directors who worked on five seasons of Breaking Bad—perhaps the most talked about television series in history— only one was a woman. And when it comes to cinematographers, the situation is dismal. Women in View surveyed 272 episodes of Canadian TV and not one had a female cinematographer. A friend on Facebook recently alerted me to Damsel Days, a somewhat retrograde campaign by Home Hardware in which women are encouraged to get comfy with power tools and such. Maybe the film and television worlds need some Damsel Days.

ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR FILMS AT TIFF this year (and my own favourite) was Holofcener’s Enough Said. Not many directors would have partnered Tony Soprano with Elaine from Seinfeld, but that’s what Holofcener did by featuring James Gandolf ini with Julia Louis-Dreyfuss in a romantic comedy (with good dramatic bones) about middle-aged courtship. Gandolfini plays a decent-hea r ted divorced g uy who works as a librarian at a TV station and Louis-Dreyfuss is a massage therapist about to send her daughter off to college. It’s nothing more than a movie about two grown-ups trying to embark on a relationship, dealing with the issues of trust and treachery that arise in the process. But it feels like Jane Austen compared to the gross-out humour of most mainstream comedies. When they first spend the night together at his place, Louis-Dreyfuss uses the bathroom, where she notices a jar full of toothbrushes on the counter. When she gets back in bed, she’s a little nervous. “What’s with all the toothbrushes,” she asks. “They’re my old ones,” he says. Her incredibly expressive face says, “I’m not sure I can trust a guy who doesn’t throw his old toothbrushes out.” This tiny detail, an insight into both his character and hers, was a simple and yet potent sign to me that the movie had to have a woman in charge. It may not be a car chase or a wizard in a cave, but I think that audiences are also longing for more moments on the screen like this, in which we recognize ourselves. EB


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Wherever you’re writing from... Then I did some of my best writing. A house on stilts on Marajó island, where the Amazon meets the sea. There was a rubber tree inside the house, and the waves were red at high tide. Ayahuasca had something to do with it. - Samuel Veissiere

When the weather’s polite, I write from a garden shed in our back yard affectionately known as the Paperback Shack. It’s less than 8’ by 10’, wired for light, with the inside painted the blue of a blind pony’s eye. - Katherin Edwards

I write a lot on the subway using my iPhone, on the A-train between West 4th and Lincoln Center, listening to a man in a tinfoil hat expound on the joys of no longer having to hear the aliens. - Chris Tarry

UBC Creative Writing

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Faculty Deborah Campbell Steven Galloway Sara Graefe Wayne Grady Nancy Lee Annabel Lyon Keith Maillard

Maureen Medved Susan Musgrave Andreas Schroeder Linda Svendsen Timothy Taylor Peggy Thompson Rhea Tregebov Bryan Wade

11/7/13 8:52:06 2013-11-22 3:59AM PM





the shelters at the Nipawin Regional Park. Hard liquor. Mix. Giant plastic cups with lids and straws. A person could get drunk faster using a straw, we’d been told. The Regional was a good spot to “get primed” before the party. We couldn’t get primed at home, unless someone’s parents


were out of town, but we were too young to get into the bar and we didn’t want to risk driving around with open liquor in the car. The park was a five-minute drive away, along the river on the edge of town. During the day families gathered there for cookouts, birthdays and playground activities but the place was deserted after dark. No

Illustration ROBERT CARTER



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Illustration ROBERT CARTER

campers, no staff. The cops rarely drove through. We could be as loud as we liked. My friends and I were going to a cabaret at the Legion Hall later that night. Everyone would be there: hotties, scummers, bitches, druggies, freaks, skanks, hockey players and the puck bunnies who dated them, headbangers, douchebags, dropouts, geeks like us. The cool and uncool were oil and water, swirling in one vessel but never mixing, watching one another’s every stupid move while pretending the other didn’t exist. It was a warm September evening in 1993. I wore my jean jacket, the one f rom Bootlegger that had pretend

patches all over it. I had a twenty-six of Southern Comfort all for myself. It was the colour of iced tea, and I liked it because it was spicy and sweet, unlike vodka, which tasted like nothing but burned all the same. I sat at a picnic bench and pulled the bottle from a paper bag. The label was black and white, old-fashioned looking. Southern Comfort had been crafted in a New Orleans bar on the banks of the Mississippi River, which I knew how to spell thanks to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie books. What would Laura think of me? Never mind. I twisted off the cap, poured some of the brown liquid into my cup, and cut it with Coke.

The drink was strong—one-third booze, t wo - t hi rds pop — a nd it st ung as I slurped it through the straw, filling up fast. My friends drank vodka and orange, paralyzers, coolers. I don’t remember who pulled for us, maybe someone’s older boyfriend. My friends’ names all ended in A: Natasha, Paula, Anita, Melissa, Pamela. We were sixteen or nearly, but Anita was the only one with a car, a blue Firefly that we all crammed inside to get out to the park. Anita played designated driver and chaperone. She laughed—with us, at us—as we grew sillier and sillier, smoking cigarette after cigarette as the swigs of alcohol went into circulation.


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After a while, Melissa and I headed off to the playground. Melissa had the greatest laugh, sober or wasted: girly, clownish, naughty, scot-free. She cackled now as we staggered at high speed toward the swings and slides. We each mounted one of those riding animals on giant springs; Melissa rode the turtle and I got the squirrel, or was it a duckling? We rocked back and forth madly, willing the springs to snap, laughing and belching and screaming maniacally, our up-combed bangs f lapping and reeking of Salon Selectives. The booze sloshed in our guts. Before long, we fell to the ground in hysterics. We were so alive, so loaded, so right-here-right-now and who-gives-asweet-shit-what-anyone-thinks. I ran over to the helter-skelter, feeling nostalgic. As a kid, I’d loved this white metal cone, a lighthouse with a slide twisting around the outside. I would climb up in it to the lookout, then fly down the steel loop until my feet hit pine needles and dirt. It was rusty now, much punier than I remembered, and I had to duck my head to get inside. I pulled down my Guess jeans and squatted, watched with dizzy fascination as the urine pooled in the sand between my Doc Martens and splattered the black leather and yellow lacing. “I’m pissed and pissing! Ha! Ha!” I shouted. My words echoed inside the helter-skelter. Melissa laughed and laughed, and when I returned we stretched our arms out like wings and spun in circles under the yard light—sisters, monsters, moths. Things went black and neon after that. My memories are a series of ruined Polaroids, water-marked and smeared, swampy-dark with bright spots, the images barely recognizable. I had finished the twenty-six of Southern Comfort and smoked all my cigarettes. There was puking in the shelter, a big red splat of it, and someone jumping back to avoid the spray. I don’t remember whose mouth it came from. Fast-forward past the blackness: by ten o’clock, the Firefly was angle-parked in front of the Legion. A girl named Liza stood at the car with the driver’s side window open, laughing at me in the 38

backseat. “Hey Liz,” she shouted, teasing, “Wake up! Wake up!” Liza was cool, but in a good way; she circumvented the cliques, liked everyone and was liked by everyone. How long had I been here? I could hear the music pumping inside at the hall. I’d almost made it to the party. I smiled at her lazily, caught the irony, and let my eyelids slide shut.

THIS WAS NOT OUR FIRST BOOZE CRUISE, nor would it be our last. Drinking was what most teenagers did—and probably still do—on weekends in rural Saskatchewan. Not that we ever worried about drinking underage. Everyone did it and everyone got primed before the real party started: to save money on drink tickets at a cabaret dance and to take the edge off, to reduce the angst of arriving, wherever it happened to be: in a basement, a garage, a hall, a farmyard, even a moonlit clearing like Tokers, the clandestine patch of land across the river where we held bush parties.

cassette deck, so we listened to the radio. Both of our lives were at the mercy of my hands, locked in at ten and two on the steering wheel, keeping us on the right side of the dotted yellow line. “ Have f un,” Dad sa id when he dropped me off. Did he know he would be picking up someone else, someone who looked just like, but no longer was, his little girl? Was it like this for him the first time he got drunk, the first time he tasted the very thing that ruined his old man? Did he ever once connect those dots and think, “Hang on, this could ruin me, too?” Because I certainly didn’t. I was a teenager, indomitable, my confidence lustrous and deadly as a blade. Of course I won’t fuck it up. Of course I’m smarter and better than my parents. We didn’t talk about Dad’s drinking. I was old enough to suspect what was going on, but I never got the Hollywood scene I hungered for. No one in my family ever said the word “alcoholic” out

Did he know he would be picking up someone else, someone who looked just like, but no longer was, his little girl? We didn’t require an occasion to drink and we didn’t care about the consequences. Who needed all those brain cells anyway? Why would we want to remember every lame-ass evening in Nowheresville, lapping Main from the cop shop to the Dairy Queen, again and again, looking for hot guys, chain-smoking, begging the gods for some sort of action—a meteor, a tornado, a sinkhole, anything. Of course the gods never delivered. Getting wasted livened up the dullness once the novelty of more innocent risk-taking—truth or dare, the fainting game, chatting up the dead via a Ouija board—had worn off. I remember precisely the night I tipped over to binge drinking, went from light to dark and smart to stupid, as I see it now. It was with my friend, Regan, who lived a half hour from Nipawin. I was fifteen and had my learner’s licence; my father, Peter, let me drive his little blue truck to Ridgedale so I could practise on the highway. The truck didn’t have a

loud, never mind “abuse.” The latter was passed off as discipline and punishment, what happened when we did something stupid. (Which my brothers and I did, more and more in the evenings, once Dad had dipped into the Canadian Club, once his eyes got bloodshot and shiny.) “Do you want to split a six-pack?” Regan asked before the party. “I only need three to get drunk.” She was talking about beer. I’d never even had one. “Three’s fine,” I said, faking casual, handing her ten bucks. As the purple bill slid from my hand into hers, I felt excited. I didn’t notice something precious falling away, the sloughing-off of a softer, younger layer of myself. I didn’t feel the invigorating kiss of a cold breeze, the kind that wakes you up and scares you at the same time. I handed Regan ten dollars and leapt. It was a thoughtless jump, a fearless one, because that’s the best way to jump, because I was going to live forever, because I knew it all, because I couldn’t wait to see how it felt to be on the other side.


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At the time, I didn’t care that there was no undoing this action, because the words running through my head were fun, and up, and forget and onward—not sad or down or remember.

OUR VOICES ECHOED WHEN WE PLAYED under the bridge at the lake, this little bridge built into the gravel road that ran over the creek by Ivan’s cabin. My brothers and I loved to run down the grassy embankment and collect fireweed and daisies, watch the creek water trickle and lap over stones on its way down to the lake. Sometimes we could see Ivan’s cats under his cabin, in the outdoor litter box he’d fashioned for them. We called Ivan the Bridge Troll, and not just because of where he lived. He was troll-like, by his own admission: big-bellied, unkempt, greasy, with grimy hands and a booming voice. But Ivan wasn’t scary like a troll, not scary like my dad. Imagine a burly, dark-haired version of Doc in Back to the Future, a talkative, jovial and chaotic foil to my father who taught us about flying squirrels, showed us rat testes under the microscope at our cabin and invited us over to watch a cat give birth to kittens on his bed. We loved his collection of pets: a scruffy black poodle named Missy, ferrets who ran up our pant legs. He played the cats like harmonicas, holding their front and back legs tight as he brought their furry bellies to his mouth. Ivan and Dad were close; they shared a love of DIY projects, the Prairies and small planes. Dad wanted an airplane, so he could fly up to the lake, just like Ivan, who took us for rides to see northern Saskatchewan from the sky. The landscape was a furry pelt of evergreen dotted with thousands of glistening lakes. Dad never went swimming, not at the lake, not in pools, not even wave pools or at hotels with waterslides. I only saw him in the lake once, when we were putting in a new dock and he wore hip waders, as if he was allergic to fresh water. I couldn’t understand why Dad loved being at the cabin so much, why he’d want a plane to fly up to the lake, when he didn’t swim, hardly ever fished, didn’t want to get into, or onto, the water. Was he secretly afraid of the leeches, the drop-off? How could sitting on a La-Z-Boy listening to CBC

radio, watching the sun set over the lake out the picture window possibly trump floating around on a black inner tube or snorkelling for treasure? It made it hard to believe Dad had ever been a good swimmer who could waterski barefoot, like he’d once told us, ever even dipped his toes into anything but bathwater. Dad was an old-fashioned bath man. He rarely showered, preferred a good long soak in the tub, alone, away from the rest of us. When I was really little, though, four, five years old, sometimes we bathed together. My father took the deep end, the uncomfortable end with the taps, where I sit now when I bathe with my own little boy. Dad always put a facecloth over his penis. I don’t know if he hid his privates out of respect or shame, or thought they were somehow a little more protected from a child’s rough tub antics—the splashing and kicking and frantic searches for the bar of soap. Peter and Peggy couldn’t agree on soap; she liked Ivory, he liked Irish Spring, or Zest, which would make us “zestfully clean, the ads promised. But both of them liked Herbal Essences shampoo. It was emerald-coloured and came in a clear bottle. On the label, a blond woman sat in a pond that was surrounded by flowers. I decided she must be a mermaid. The mermaid watched one night as Dad squirted a green quarter into the palm of his hand and lathered it gently into my hair, then picked up an old cottage cheese container. “Eyes shut,” he said, and I squeezed them tight while he poured water over my head. I had been learning that song about the girl named Alice, the one with legs like toothpicks and a neck like a girafferaf-raf who meets her doom after she goes upstairs to take a bath. I sang it now as Dad put in the cream rinse. “Alice stepped in the bathtub, pulled out the plug and then: Oh my goodness, bless my soul, there goes Alice down the hole!” Mom lifted me out of the tub and dried me off while Dad washed his hair. He pulled the drain plug, laid down under the faucet to rinse out the shampoo. The water had gone all milky. I caught sight of myself in a full-length mirror on the back of the door, wet hair stuck to my head,

wrapped in a light brown towel like one of those piggies in a blanket that Mom made for parties. A wail. I looked back quickly to see a look of fear on my father’s face. “The sewer monster!” He was shouting. “The sewer monster’s got me, he’s got me, I’m going down!” He flailed, his neck at the drain as though he was being sucked into the pipes. His voice echoed through the bathroom, over the golden tiles that made the bathtub look like a honeycomb, and I began to cry and scream for my mother to save him. I can still see Dad’s terrified look, a terror I believed was real.

THERE WERE MONSTERS IN MY FATHER’S life, not sewer monsters, and they wanted to drown him. It took me time to realize this; too much time, for by then, Dad was long dead. The single-engine Piper airplane he planned to buy had already crashed with him inside it. It was May 25, 1994, and I was sixteen years old. For years, I thought of my father as the bad guy, the tanker truck in that Steven Spielberg movie Duel, a mean, scary old thing hunting me and my brothers, Graham and Aaron, chasing us, trying to drive us off the road. Dad, the grumpy one who smacked and snarled and shouted and swore. The one who cuffed and threatened and picked Graham up by his curly black hair. The one with red cheeks and booze breath who had us tiptoeing around the house after school, three mice, not blind, just terrified. The boys and I were the salesman in the red Valiant, the prey, shit-scared and trying to get away. We couldn’t ever go fast enough and we wracked our brains about what we’d done to deserve this. We wondered if he, that truck, was even real or something from a bad dream. I took great delight reliving the scene at the end of the film where the salesman tricks the tanker truck and it careens off a cliff. Bullies and bad guys can be beaten, I’d remind myself; they can be outsmarted. But as I got older, I learned more about Dad and his dad, about the way families, work, and don’t work. I began to see my father in a new light, and considered recasting the characters in the Duel that looped in my head. WWW.EIGHTEENBRIDGES.COM

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My father did not like his own dad. He used the word “hate” when he confided things to my mother about Grandpa Bob, she tells me. Grandpa Bob, who died before I was born, was a high-ranking, well-respected Mountie in Calgary, and an alcoholic. He didn’t come to my parents’ wedding in 1970, I learned after my father’s death. The backstory is complicated and hush-hush, but it boils down to Grandpa Bob’s fall from grace at the age of fifty. Three months before my parents got married in Saskatchewan, Supt. Walter Carroll “Bob” Ferguson skipped town under the pretext of visiting rural detachments in his subdivision. He was driving a black Plymouth Fury that belonged to the RCMP. According to his discipline file, my grandfather was distraught after ending an “emotional” relationship with a person other than my grandmother. For three days, Grandpa Bob hid out in hotels in Beiseker, Drumheller and Irricana, drinking beer after beer, popping Valium his doctor prescribed for “tension,” as well as antihistamines for a cold. On May 27, alone behind the wheel, he missed a turn near Irricana, veered off the road and crashed the Fury through a barbed wire fence. The Fury eventually came to a stop in a farmer’s field. It was a serious accident that herniated one of Grandpa Bob’s discs and cost him his career. By spring 1971, he had been “compulsorily retired” from the RCMP to “promote the efficiency of the force.” In my parents’ wedding photos, Grandma Julie beams next to her son, the groom, a Mountie, too, in his red serge. She is beautiful, elegant, proud. There is no trace of disappointment, bereftness or rage at her husband’s absence. Did the pain of his back injury keep Grandpa Bob away, or was it shame? Very best of happiness now and for the future, he wrote in a telegram to the newlyweds, sent to the Corona Hotel in Yorkton, where Grandma Julie was staying. He signed it simply Dad. A token gesture, or was he asking for forgiveness? And then I think of my dad, mired in his own chronic back pain and misery, sip after sip after sip, and I wonder: was he the tanker truck? Because my dad wasn’t just chasing us, he was being chased, too: by his past, by his own father, by family 40

history and genetic predisposition. Dad wasn’t just the truck, he was the salesman; not the hunter, but the hunted, strapped into his seat, pedal to the metal, trying to escape in his little red Valiant. His pilot’s shades askew, tanker truck barrelling down, his genes, his past, his own father barrelling down, but my dad couldn’t get out of the way in time. I wonder how he felt when he saw his reflection in the bathroom at home after he’d snuck another drink, or clocked one of his children across the head; when he realized he’d failed, become the guy he told my mom he hated, missed the turn and crashed himself. Driven off the proverbial cliff, like that nasty tanker in Duel. I never made the connection. I never saw how the thing we did for fun, this teenage phase I outgrew without consequence, was the same thing that made my father so un-fun. Perhaps I was trying to connect with him, to know him and to learn his language. Or maybe I wanted to flout him, show him how good it used to be, how fresh and beautiful it was at first, until you can’t stop, until you need it to get through each day. I stopped before I went too far. I have wondered since if it could have turned out differently for me. When does a drink go from being a means to an end into simply an end? At what moment does it change from game to crutch, from pleasure to poison, from coat to skin? How, precisely, does one become a drunk? Is there a science to it, a checklist? Must one consume a certain volume of liquor, go on a certain number of benders, spray vomit into a certain number of toilet bowls, sustain a certain number of bruises, make out with a certain number of strangers, invest a certain number of dollars, commit regularly for a certain number of minutes, hours, years? Must one experience a certain number of stupors, blackouts and regrets? Perhaps it is like tracing the origins of a cancerous tumour, pinpointing the very first cell that went bad and divided.

I BLOOMED LATE. I WAS SLOW TO CATCH on to makeup, drinking, sex, lying. At junior high dances, I was a wallflower, putting in every effort to look good in

acid-wash skirts and polyester blouses from the SA A N store, only to stand on the edge of the dance floor in the school gym and watch my crush of the month sway to November Rain with some other girl, someone prettier, with better hair and a better dad. I would watch the guy slip his fingers from her waist down her jeans as the song went on, cupping her butt like some sort of hand-ass bra, and I’d imagine how it felt to have his warm, sweaty palms on my bum. Was she close enough to feel his thing? Was it hard? Could they smell each other’s bodies through the suffocating veil of Exclamation and Calvin K lein Eternity? One of the teachers would notice the butt-grabbing and move the guy’s hands back up to the girl’s belt, and when the song ended, they’d peel away from one another, return to their respective clutches to whisper about it. Some girls got drunk even then, when we were thirteen, fourteen. They hid booze in non-aerosol hairspray bottles—A lberto, probably, or Paul Mitchell—so the teachers wouldn’t confiscate them, then chug-a-lugged between songs in the bathroom beside the gym. Sometimes, when my friends and I went to inspect ourselves, we’d catch them in the act and I’d feel like I was missing out, that this was my ticket to November Rain slow dances. I made up for lost time in high school (which, despite the distinctive title, was the same school, and the only secondary school in town). Alcohol made me cool, or at least less uncool, I discovered after that weekend at Regan’s, in which I drank my three beers, line-danced like a mad hillbilly and kissed a guy I met that night. A few swigs, and suddenly I was mingling with the in-crowd, making people laugh, frenching boys, feeling their bodies and letting them feel mine. Alcohol was a language we all spoke. It took time, patience and investment to build up my tolerance until I could drink a twenty-six of Southern Comfort by myself, or a whole case of beer, or some other impressive volume that now seems impossible. We were proud of our binges, pinning them on our coats like war vets did their medals.


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MY FRIENDS TAXIED ME HOME IN THE FIREFLY that night of the legion cabaret. I made my curfew of twelve-thirty, shuff led into the porch, took off my Docs in the dark without undoing the laces, using the toe of one shoe to pull off the heel of the other. Our dog Popcorn was asleep on the shoes under the bench, squashing Mom’s black penny loafers. She put dimes in the little slots because she thought the silver looked prettier than copper. Dad and Graham were in the basement watching TV. I had to walk past them to get to bed; the year before, I’d traded my room upstairs for the guest room downstairs, as far away from my parents as possible without moving out. I walked down the green carpet stairs as soberly as I could, caught sight of the Ferguson clan’s Scottish tartan hanging over the stairwell. Dad sat in his usual spot, Graham across. They looked up at me and to this day, I wonder what they saw. “Have a seat,” Dad said. I plunked

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myself down next to Graham. Could they tell? Nah. I was so good at faking it. “What’s on?” I asked, making conversation, oblivious to any slurring or stink. Kids in the Hall had just started. The humour was risqué; it came on late at night. “Have a good time?” Dad asked. Did he really want to know or was he baiting me? “Yeah!” I said, a little too cheerfully without meeting his eye, suddenly engrossed in the show. Scott Thompson, my favourite, was slow-motion-running in front of a blue-screen forest in a Davy Crocket get-up, while Bruce McCulloch and Dave Foley sang. “Running faggot, running free, see the faggots running from the rednecks! Running faggot, running freeeeee…” I laughed nonchalantly at the skit, crossed my legs. They couldn’t tell. I could do this all night if I had to. “I think you should go to bed,” my father said. Of course he knew, I realize now. Sitting across from him was someone else, someone who looked just like,

but no longer was, his little girl. “OK! G’night,” I said, extra politely, and hopped to my room. I slept in my clothes and Bootlegger jacket until the following afternoon. When I finally got up and looked at my reflection—at the dried vomit crusted all through my hair, at the smears of mascara around my eyes, at the dark red stain in the crotch of my jeans after unknowingly getting my period—I was filled with shame. At the sight of myself, at my leap from light to dark, smart to stupid, at having thought I’d fooled my father when he could never fool me. I still don’t know why he didn’t get mad. Did he see something innocent and natural: a child experimenting, rebelling? Or did he see himself? Maybe he knew it wasn’t his place to raise hell. Or maybe he knew I was just being a teenager and that I’d smarten up and turn out fine; that the daughter he used to share a bathtub with wouldn’t go down the drain like him and Alice. EB

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November 7, 2013 was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Albert Camus, Algeria’s most celebrated writer. So why weren’t they celebrating?


sports club that doubles as a coffee shop on rue Mohamed Belouizdad, one of the major Algiers thoroughfares connecting downtown to the eastern edge of city centre. Inside the CRB, faded portraits of former and current soccer heroes keep watch over haphazard combinations of chairs and tables. On a Tuesday morning in late June the place was busy, though most of the patrons were old men bent over newspapers as if peering down a well. In the 1930s, the CRB was the favoured coffee shop, and favoured soccer club, of Albert Camus, the author of works such as The Outsider, The Myth of Sisyphus, The Rebel, and The Plague. The CRB is a couple blocks from the invisible line that once separated the neighbourhood’s Muslims and pieds-noirs (Algerians of European heritage).


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The Cercle Sportif Chabab, once Camus’ favourite coffee shop The man beside him, a few years younger and all bone, skin and moustache, took exception to his friend’s summary. “That doesn’t matter,” he said. “He was an Algerian and he loved Algeria. You know that.” “But forget about us,” said the third, a hearty man in his seventies hiding behind what I assumed were fake Ray-Bans. “The young people, they don’t even know who Camus is.” I expressed my surprise. “Why would they not read his work?” “You’re misunderstanding me,” he said. “It’s not that they haven’t read him. They’ve never even heard of him!” I laughed. “I’m sure that can’t be true.” The Ray-Ban man looked back to me and shrugged, as if to say, Don’t believe me if you don’t want to. “It’s not just him,” said the one-eyed man, shaking a finger at me. “They’ve never heard of any of the original freedom fighters, either.” “Why?” I asked. “Why aren’t the young students of today taught about Camus or about the others? And who do you mean by ‘they’?” All three men collectively waved a dismissive hand towards the capital’s central district, indicating the Bouteflika government that Ben Ali had labelled comically criminal and nakedly corrupt within five minutes of our meeting at the airport the day before. “They want the glory,” said the moustache-man. “They don’t want anyone else to get the credit for Algeria becoming Algeria.” “Anyway, ever y revolution eats its young,” added the one-eyed man. “I didn’t

make that up. But it’s true. It’s not just Camus, you see. It’s all of them, even on the independence side.” “Where did Camus live? I know where he went to school,” I said, pointing up the hill, over towards the old pied-noir quarter, “but what about when he was working at Alger Républicain in the thirties? Didn’t he move back to Belcourt?” The Ray-Ban man pointed to a building across the street. From my seat inside the café I could see it was a typical three-story Algiers walk-up, with the equisite crumbling concrete facade, tattered striped drapes hanging in front of rusting window grates and a battery of satellite dishes on the roof. “Second floor,” he said. “The window above the blue door.” When we stood up to leave, I thanked the men in turn and offered to buy them another coffee, which they politely refused. I shook their hands. The Ray-Ban man held my hand a beat longer. “You ask,” he said. “Just ask.” I held his hand. “About what?” “Ask the young ones. Ask them about Camus.”

ALGIERS IS HEAVING AND CRUMBLING AT THE same time. The five-million residents who walk its wide colonial boulevards and labyrinthine Casbah alleyways are forced with almost every footfall to step over broken stone and tile, random piles of dirt and rock, and heaps of loose and sometimes even bagged trash. The garbage—the stench, the flies, the decay, the degrading volume of

Photo Curtis Gillespie

Camus was a World War II Resistance fighter, stood up against the death penalty and Stalin’s terror, fought spirited intellectual battles with Jean-Paul Sartre, was dashing and seductive, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957, and died, at forty-six, in a violent car crash outside Paris on January 4, 1960. But before all that, he lived in this neighbourhood, on this street. Prior to Algerian independence in 1962, the neighbourhood was called Belcourt, the CRB was Cercle Sportif Chabab Athlétique Belcourt, and rue Mohamed Belouizdad was rue de Lyon. The neighbourhood demarcation line is long gone because so are the pieds-noirs. That isn’t all that’s changed. Camus’ reaction to the Algerian war of independence, a vicious struggle that ran from 1954 to 1962, set his legacy moving along a different and disturbing course, in Algeria and elsewhere, with implications that reach far beyond his literary meaning. Camus has long been beloved and discussed by writers and thinkers around the world, but I went to Algeria carrying with me the notion that he might matter more today than ever. This proved to be the case, but for reasons I could not have predicted. I had stopped in the CRB knowing Camus spent many a happy hour there. As I stood at the bar, three elderly gentlemen sipped mint tea at a nearby table. They were watching the world go by, silent with one another in the way that only friends of decades can be. I remarked to Ben Ali, my translator, that one of them probably knew Camus, or at least knew of his life in this neighbourhood. “We should talk to them,” I said, half in jest. Ben Ali took me at my word. He strode over to the men. I followed, offered to buy them a coffee, and asked if they would mind if we joined them. They motioned for us to sit. “What do you know of Albert Camus?” I asked them. “Did any of you know him, or know of him?” “Yes, of course. We knew of him,” said one of the gents. He looked to be about ninety years old and had only one working eye, the other milky and half-shut. “He’d moved to France by the time of the war, of course.” He was referring to the Algerian war of independence, not World War II. “He was a great man. But,” he held up an arthritic finger, “he didn’t support Algerian independence.” EIGHTEEN BRIDGES WINTER 2013 WWW.EIGHTEENBRIDGES.COM

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it—is heartbreaking, since at times it can feel as if the entire city is not just dirty, but rotting, which is an apt metaphor. Algeria was ranked 132nd out of 167 countries and labeled “authoritarian” in the 2010 Democracy Index conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit, but it is given a free pass in most geo-political circles for two reasons: first, as bad as the regime of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is, it’s probably preferable to an Islamist state; and, second, Algeria possesses the world’s 8th largest oil supply and has forged links with major multi-national oil firms and oilthirsty nations. Algeria’s political and physical reality is a reflection of its psyche. The country grapples with its post-colonial legacy, trying to discover itself in the aftermath of French imperialism, the violent civil war of the 1990s and recent waves of Islamic radicalism. Street by devastated street, depending on which alley of the maze you turn down, Algiers can seem like Beirut, Marseille or Cairo, but never does the city, or the country, feel as if it actually knows what it is or wants to be. It is experiencing not just off-the-rack turmoil, but a full-bore existential crisis. Which is fitting, because November 7, 2013 was the centenary of Camus’ birth, who, along with Sartre, made existentialism common global parlance (despite the fact that Camus argued until his death that he was not an existentialist). Camus lived a life of authentic moral deliberation, and this was never more the case than when he tried to understand his relationship to the land of his birth. For him, the ideas of Algeria and justice were forever linked— philosophically, dramatically and literally. In his essay “Summer in Algiers,” published in the mid-1930s in a collection entitled Nuptials, Camus wrote: One realizes that he is born of this country where everything is given to be taken away…To feel one’s attachment to a certain region, one’s love for a certain group of men, to know that there is always a spot where one’s heart will feel at peace—these are many certainties for a single human life. And yet this is not enough. But at certain moments everything yearns for that spiritual home…It is not always easy to be a man, still less to be a pure man. But being pure is recovering that spiritual home where one

can feel one’s pulse-beats coincide with the violent throbbing of the two o’clock sun. It is well known that one’s native land is always recognized at the moment of losing it. Today, as the Arab Spring tracks a fitful path around the Mediterranean, as southern Europe remains in fiscal crisis, as radical Islam sinks roots into stable as well as unstable countries, as global moral resolve flickers in the wind of corporate returns, as drone wars are fought like video games, in these times it would have seemed appropriate, even essential, to believe that Algerian youth would be inspired by Camus’ direct message, real heroism and uncontestable love for the land of his birth. And that the rest of us would be lending an ear to his counsel that individual moral reflection conducted with constraint and humility is the only viable response to the fanaticism of mass revolution. In these times, it would seem both right and logical that these should be among the modern testaments to the work and life of Albert Camus. But it’s not quite turning out that way, at least not in Algeria. Which was what the Ray-Ban man wanted to impress upon me.

AFTER LEAVING THE CRB, I WALKED THE STREETS of east central Algiers for a couple of hours. It was a sensory assault: squalid apartment blocks, grubby businesses, pop-up kebab stands, blanket-square sellers hawking toiletries, people yelling frantically from one side of the street to the other—all of it amidst a crush of traffic, always traffic, frenzied chaotic lawless traffic under a cloud of exhaust fumes. It was hard to imagine that this was once the elegant French colonial boulevard where Camus had lived, first at 17 rue de Lyons, then at 93, and then across from the CRB at 124. In front of an electronics shop, I saw two young men loitering as if waiting for a third friend. They were in their early twenties and tidily dressed. I approached them. Ben Ali introduced us, explained what I was doing. It turned out they were in university and spoke rudimentary English. I asked them what they were studying. “I’m studying law,” said the thinner of the two. “I want to be a judge.” He pointed at his friend. “He’s studying arts.” His friend smiled. “I want to teach. A

teacher.” He patted his open palm against his chest, as if to say, That’ll be me. I smiled. “How old are you?” “Twenty-three,” said the law student. He pointed at his friend. “Twenty.” “I’m here writing about Albert Camus,” I said to them. “The writer. He was born here. He lived just over there.” I pointed back towards the CRB. “He won the Nobel Prize. I’m curious what you think of him, of Albert Camus?” The law student, the future judge, gave me a puzzled look. “Who?” “Albert Camus,” I said. “He wrote L’Etranger. La Chute. He grew up right here.” He spoke in Arabic to his friend, who shrugged. “We don’t know that name.” He smiled politely. “I’m sorry. You say he was a writer?” “Yes,” I said. “He was a pied-noir, but people think of him as one of Algeria’s, and France’s, greatest writers. Did you not study him in school?” “No.” “You’re missing something quite incredible,” I said. “He’s a powerful writer.” The two young men smiled again, almost nervously now, as if partly embarrassed by not knowing and partly irritated by a foreigner pointing out their not knowing. “We’re sorry,” said the law student. “He wasn’t part of our curriculum, in school or university. It’s not a name we’re familiar with.”

ALBERT CAMUS’ PHILOSOPHY WAS HUMANE AND inclusive; even with his most bitter ‘enemies’ he sought common ground, that ground being that we are all consigned to the same struggle of trying to make sense of this life, and that we are all doomed to fail. But it is the struggle that matters, because in that struggle lies our equality, our shared grace, our nobility. Algeria may not currently be at the forefront of the world’s attention but it is a depth charge that has already been released; when it will explode is difficult to say, but it will explode. Camus could not have predicted how many millions would die en route to creating Algeria, but in the 1950s he knew in his heart there was no right answer. He could not support France’s repressive colonialism yet he was revolted by the violence of the rebels. In 1957, while WWW.EIGHTEENBRIDGES.COM

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Memorial at Tipasa to try to broker peace between the rebels and pieds-noirs). “It’s quite simple,” said Grine, once we had tea in front of us. “The issue is that Camus is a great artist but can never be an Algerian hero. He did not support independence in 1954 or at any time.” But, I asked, was it not relevant that he consistently wrote about his love for Algeria, for the country, and that he worked for peace between Algeria and France. I referenced the 1956 lecture and debate, reminding Grine that Camus had stayed in this very hotel. “Yes, of course, but you’re missing the point in some ways, if you’ll forgive me for saying so.” He paused. “Camus always called for dialogue, for peace, for reason, yes, but always with Algeria within France? He wanted peace, but that peace meant France keeping Algeria. For that reason, he can never be an Algerian hero.” I told Grine of meeting with the old men in the CRB, of speaking with the students on rue Mohamed Belouizdad. “Does he have to be a hero? Can he simply not be a valued part of Algeria’s cultural heritage?” “If we judge him as a Frenchman in Algeria rather than as an Algerian, then perhaps we can be more tolerant. But he was a foreigner. He had no Algerian friends. He passed through here. Algeria asked him to take a stand, please take a stand. But he didn’t. If he had, he’d be 200 percent loved here.”

“But does that mean his literar y achievement should be forgotten here?” I said. “So much of his work is about his love for Algeria.” “It was a complex time. I understand Camus. I do,” said Grine, who became emotional as we spoke. He took off his glasses and wiped them slowly. “Independence was going to cut him in half and he knew it. But his connection with Algeria was never with Algerians, it was with the land, with his mother. He was actually a very sentimental man. But he just couldn’t ever see himself carrying an Algerian passport. I’m not saying what’s happening to him here is right. I’m just telling you why it’s happening. If it was up to me, I would name a street after him or name his first school the Lycée Albert Camus.” Grine picked up his tea, took a sip, shrugged. “But it won’t happen.”

THE NEXT DAY, BACK IN BELOUIZDAD, IN THE industrial area near the dockyards and factories, I came across a schoolyard soccer pitch. A dozen youths were playing a halffield pick-up game. They looked about sixteen years old. I stopped to watch. After ten or fifteen minutes, the players took a break and gathered around one end of the pitch. I approached them. We chatted for a minute. I asked what level of school they were in—the equivalent of Grade 11. “What sort of subjects are you studying?” Math, science, history, they told me, jostling for position to get close, laughing and elbowing one another. I was foreign and spoke English, which made me a rare sighting for them. “Literature?” I said. Oh yes, they replied. “We have to read all the time.” One of them rolled his eyes. “And do you study Camus?” I asked. “Albert Camus?” I was met by a dozen blank stares “He is translated around the world,” I told the boys. “Every country in the world reads Camus. He played soccer as a boy, the same age as you, right here, right in this very spot and around Algiers. He was a goalkeeper.” They liked that. “Who did he play for?” one of them asked. “Racing Universitaire d’Algers,” I said, “and the CRB was called Chabab Athlétique Belcourt back then.”

Photo Curtis Gillespie

in Oslo to accept his Nobel Prize, a student in the crowd noisily hectored him for not publicly supporting Algerian independence. “People are now planting bombs in the tramways of Algiers,” Camus said from the stage. “My mother might be on one of those tramways. If that is justice, then I prefer my mother.” Camus had become despondent over the conflict. He couldn’t choose yes and he couldn’t choose no, and that silence became his choice, which was then and since often and inaccurately characterized as an otherwise powerful political and philosophical voice failing to be heard when it counted most. In fact, Camus’ silence was the strongest defence of justice he could invoke since the only other option was to choose between what he saw as two injustices. In a letter to Le Monde he wrote clarifying some points from his encounter in Oslo, published a couple of days after the fact, Camus wrote that he felt more kinship with the Muslim student who shouted at him than with those “Frenchmen who talk about Algeria without knowing it.” Camus wrote that he could see in the face of that young Algerian not hatred but “despair and unhappiness. I share that unhappiness: his is the face of my country.” And Camus’ ‘silence’ was, moreover, only a public refusal to choose sides. We know now that in the latter half of the 1950s Camus intervened in over 150 cases by appealing to the French government for clemency with Arab prisoners facing imprisonment or execution, and although many of the letters were ignored, in some cases his intervention saved an Arab life. Camus’ silence was active not passive, a statement rather than a debilitation—it was an expression of sorrow, an expression of comprehension, an unwillingness to submit to the either/or question as posed. The American writer and historian Robert Zaretsky has noted that Camus’ brand of silence was in fact a refusal “to surrender his loyalty to both communities,” namely, the pieds-noirs and the Arabs and Berbers. I put some of these ideas and questions to the well-known Algerian novelist Hamid Grine, as we sat in the tea-room of the Hotel Al-Djaizir, known prior to Arabization as the Hotel St. George (and which was, ironically, the very hotel where Camus stayed in 1956, when, risking his life, he travelled to Algiers EIGHTEEN BRIDGES WINTER 2013 WWW.EIGHTEENBRIDGES.COM

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More stares. “Anyway, what do you know about Camus? Do your teachers talk about him?” No, they said. One or two of the boys began to break off the back of the pack and drift away. “What did he do again?” said one near the front. “He was a writer, a novelist, a philosopher.” I wasn’t too surprised to hear a group of high school students hadn’t read Camus; perhaps Russians of the same age would not have read Tolstoy, or Americans Hemingway. But I suppose part of me thought the name Camus would at least create a spark of recognition. “He’s studied around the world,” I added. “Not here!” joked one boy. “Yeah,” said another. “He’s not on the program.” I laughed with them. “So who is on the program?” “Not him!” The boys ran off, laughing, turning around and waving as they left the pitch. I left Belouizdad and turned south, up into the massive staircased hills that move inland off the Algiers waterfront. The city has a dramatic setting and it’s not hard to imagine that in a different time, in a different political climate, Algiers could be another Rio de Janiero or Barcelona. After driving for an hour through the maze of an upscale neighbourhood called Hydra, I eventually found my way to Éditions Barzakh, a literary publishing house specializing in younger Algerian authors. “It’s bad for Camus here now,” Sofiane Hadjadj, the Barzakh director, told me once we were seated in his stylish office. “But it’s important to say this is not just about Camus. He only represents the bigger problem we have here in Algeria. Part of the question is deciding who is an Algerian. We forget that we have been a hub for millennia. We are forgetting our history. We need new, young Algerians to open this debate, to ask how we deal with memory and identity.” Hadjadj drew comparisons between Camus and Messali Hadj, one of the fathers of independence, who was himself squeezed out of that movement, out of the political sphere, and ultimately out of the country. He died in Paris in 1974, an exile, simply because he believed in seeking a less violent transition from French rule. His party lost

out and he is in many ways, says Hadjadj, the political equivalent of Camus; one of history’s losers. “It’s true that Camus is not widely read here,” said Hadjadj. “In some ways we are proud of him, but he never did use the word independence in relation to Algeria. And we must remember that he died so young. He might have changed his mind. We don’t know.” As I prepared to leave, Hadjadj asked that we remember Mouloud Feraoun, who published his “Letter of an Algerian Muslim to Albert Camus” during the height of the Algerian conflict. Feraoun remained a friend to Camus throughout and considered his death a tragedy. One of the fathers of Algerian literature, Feraoun was martyred when the French OAS captured and assassinated him in 1962. Feraoun gave his life to Algeria, Hadjadj told me, yet he was able to remain a friend to Camus to the end. “This is not insignificant,” he said. I thought of those words—to the end— as I drove back to central Algiers. Algeria was a political question for Camus, but it was also intensely personal, and he was grappling with it while preoccupied with many other issues: challenging Stalin and Communism, breaking with Sartre, coping with writer’s block, working on The Fall, dealing with the hostile reception to The Rebel. His personal life was in turmoil and he was increasingly worried about the safety of his blind and aging mother, who refused to leave her Belcourt apartment. We must also remember that he was still a young man at the time, just forty when the conflict began in 1954. He was not trying to find an expedient solution, but rather was working his way through to an answer that would last another forty years and another forty lifetimes. He never found that answer. Nor did anyone else. As Camus got older, it became ever clearer that the Algeria of his youth was gone and there was nothing he could do to bring it back.

AN HOUR SOUTHWEST OF ALGIERS ALONG THE coastal highway are the Roman ruins of Tipasa, a UNESCO World Heritage site suffocating under a rot of garbage and neglect (in much the same way as the Algiers Casbah, another UNESCO site). Near the main crossroads of the ancient Roman

city—where Camus often came to sit and think—I was approached by a young couple who overheard me speaking English. The young man was twenty-four. He was small, dark, with a shy smile and a little English. He proudly told us they were engaged. The young lady, whose English was perfect, told me she was twenty-two. She wore full Islamic cover except for a face featuring what the Algerians call gazelle eyes—her irises were such a golden honey colour that they tinted the air in front of her. We chatted for a moment about the ruins, about Algeria. I asked her what she did, and she told me she was doing her Masters in Literature at the University of Blida, a large town about an hour south of Algiers. “You’re doing a Masters in Literature!” I said. “You must know of Albert Camus, then. What do you think of his work? Do you think it’s important to Algeria?” She gave me a puzzled look. “Who is this? Albert Camus?” She turned to her fiancé for explanation. He furrowed his dark brow. I explained that Camus was one of the world’s most influential writers, translated in over one hundred languages. That he won the Nobel in 1957. That he was born and raised in Algeria. That he sat—right over there, I pointed—on that promontory as a young man to imagine his future. That he loved Algeria and had had his heart ripped out during the war of independence. I told her that he died in a car accident in 1960 at the age of forty-six. She stared at me for a moment. “Why do we not know about him?” she said. “Why don’t our teachers tell us about him?” “I don’t know,” I said. “Perhaps it’s political.” She nodded. “Yes, I think that must be it. Tell me the name of his most famous book,” she said. “I am going to find it.” “L’Étranger,” I said. “The Outsider,” she said, translating to English. “Thank you. Yes. He must be a great Algerian.” She paused. “Should we not know about him?” Sadness occupied her face, an expression her hijab made all the more pointed and poignant. For a moment, it seemed tears were going to fill her gazelle eyes. “Thank you. Au revoir. Saha.” I continued through the ruins. On the WWW.EIGHTEENBRIDGES.COM

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western edge was the headland overlooking the bay at Tipasa and the mountains of Chenoua, which Camus stared at from that very promontory. It was a site, and a sight, etched on his soul. So important was this spot to Camus that the year after his death some friends erected a humble monument in his honour, a small stelae, about five feet high. On it are inscribed words from his early lyrical essay “Nuptials at Tipasa”: Je comprends ici ce qu’on appelle gloire, le droit d’aimer sans mesure. “Here I understand that which is called glory—the right to love without measure.” I went back to town, to the harbour. Astonishingly, as I walked along rue Freres Belouandja towards the pier, a painting of Camus appeared on a sidewalk slat board. Above his likeness were the words Restaurant Albert Camus. I spoke with a couple of the patrons, asked if the owner was around. A couple minutes later a man came out, shook my hand, introduced himself as The Captain and told me that the owner was away on holiday but that it didn’t matter anyway because he knew far more about this place than the owner. “Why’s that?” I asked. He smiled. “Because I’ve been working here and there in this harbour for eighty years.” The Captain, who looked to be about eighty-five years old, sported a large belly under a sailor’s shirt. He showed me into a back room with sofas and low tables, where Camus and his friends would smoke and drink and talk philosophy and art. “He sat right there,” said The Captain. “That’s why we named this restaurant after him a few years ago. He spent a lot of time here. It was a house then, a sculptor’s house. Camus was his friend.” “Do the people who eat here know who Camus was?” I asked. He shook his head. “I doubt it. Some, perhaps.” I explained to The Captain that since arriving I’d found that young Algerians had no idea who Camus was and that it appeared he was being quietly erased because he hadn’t supported Algerian independence. I told The Captain that one intellectual I’d spoken to had said, “Yes, Camus loved Algeria, but he didn’t love Algerians.” Meaning, Arabs. 48

“Quite untrue,” said The Captain. He told me he’d witnessed Camus become enraged one day at the harbour, where he and his friends used to dive off the pier. Someone from the French authority had put up a new sign. “It was right at the entrance to the pier,” said The Captain. “It read, ‘It is forbidden for Arabs to swim here.’ Camus was furious when he saw that sign. He ripped it right off the post and threw it in the garbage. I saw it. I watched him do that, and then he looked at me and asked me to go and buy him some cigarettes from the market. He was always asking me to go buy him cigarettes. I’m sure I wasn’t eight years old.” The Captain paused a moment, then winched out of his memory whatever it was he’d been seeking. “Camelia Sports,” he said. “That was the cigarette he smoked.” This brand of cigarette had a soccer ball as its logo. The Captain finished by telling us of the time Camus gathered a group of Arabs together in the same area, the Tipasa harbour, to encourage them to build their own mosque. It made me think of Camus’ “Letter to an Algerian Militant,” published in 1955 in the Communauté Algérienne, a progressive newspaper aimed at halting the growing tensions. Camus was ostensibly writing to the publisher, Aziz Kessous. “I am with you one hundred percent, my dear Kessous,” wrote Camus. “I want to believe with all my heart that peace will dawn on our fields, our mountains, and our shores, and that Arabs and Frenchmen, reconciled in liberty and justice, will try hard to forget the bloodshed that divides them today. On that day, we who are together exiles in hatred and despair will together regain our native land.” The Captain took us outside and showed us on old pockmarked Roman block, a ruin poached decades earlier from the ancient site nearby. It was a simple rectangular shape, about the size of a small refrigerator. A restaurant sign sat on top of it. “Camus used to sit on this block and watch the harbour and the people and the waves and the weather. The rock was on its side then.” He indicated the block laid out like a sofa. “See these holes?” He pointed at a variety of small openings and fissures in the rock. “He’d stub his cigarette out in this one and prop his pen in this other one. He’d sit there like that for hours, just watch-

ing, smoking, writing. Watching, smoking, writing.”

ALBERT CAMUS WAS A WOMANIZER, A FRETTER and took offence easily. But his life is studded with demonstrations of genuine courage under pressure. Given his example and the manner in which he often put his life on the line to fight injustice, had Camus lived out a fuller life he might have become an intellectual and moral symbol on the order of Nelson Mandela or Vaclav Havel, perhaps even a unifying figure in the Arab world, a man whose life and philosophy could still speak to both the secular west and Islamic Arabs. Alice Kaplan, in her preface to the new edition of Camus’ 1958 book Algerian Chronicles, a collection of articles and essays he’d previously published, wrote that “giving speech to anger and helplessness and injustice is the task Camus set for himself” by publishing the book. “His sense of impending loss,” she wrote, “his horror of terror, even his vacillations, endow the book with an uncanny relevance.” There do remain embers of optimism, signs here and there that his legacy could still yet be revived and celebrated in Algeria. The Algerian writer Assia Djebar, exiled in New York City, has written poignantly of Camus’ value to Algeria. There will be a presidential election in 2014 and the writer Yasmina Khadra announced his nomination on November 2, 2013—Khadra has said in public lectures that L’Étranger is “the greatest novel of the 20th century.” He has also criticized Camus for not speaking about Algeria, “in its full diversity,” but that in his own work, he has “tried to show that Algeria is a history, a saga, a bravery, a valour, an intelligence, a generosity. All those beautiful things that Camus failed to see. I’ve always wished to tell him that, despite the greatness of your talent, you’ve been unfair to the Algerian.” For all that, adds Khadra, “We continue to love him. He’s a great writer of Algeria. He’s our only Nobel Prize winner.” The simple use of the word “our” is of no little significance, though the odds of a writer winning a presidential election in a country with, at best, a flawed democratic record, is unlikely. The Algerian government’s apparent and unspoken policy of gradual and undra-


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matic erasure of Camus is not due simply to his refusal to say yes to Algerian independence then, but because his ideas remain a threat now. These ideas are, in their own way, one element of a plague the current regime wants to eradicate, using patriotism as the inoculating agent. Ideas such as those expressed in his essay “Return to Tipasa,” written before the start of the war of independence. Camus returned to Algeria from time to time after World War II, in the dark days of early Stalinism, his Parisian battles with Sartre, his own artistic block, and his growing realization that Algeria was reaching a crisis point. At times in the essay, he was ostensibly speaking of Europe’s troubles, but it’s clear that he was in many ways prefiguring the turmoil to come in the land he loved: Violence and hatred dry up the heart itself; the long fight for justice exhausts the love that nevertheless gave birth to it. In the clamour in which we live, love is impossible and justice does not suffice. This is why Europe hates daylight and is only able to set injustice up against injustice. But in order to keep justice from shriveling up like a beautiful orange fruit containing nothing but a bitter, dry pulp, I discovered once more at Tipasa that one must keep intact in oneself a freshness, a cool well-spring of joy, love the day that escapes injustice, and return to combat having won the light. Here I recaptured the old beauty, a young sky… In the middle of winter, I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer… In the difficult hour we are living, what else can we desire than to exclude nothing and to learn how to braid with white thread and black thread a single cord stretched to the breaking point? It would take a mind of the purest literalism to miss that Camus was talking about the dark clouds he saw massing on Algeria’s horizon. And that the only way forward was through braiding white and black, through shared strength. If Camus’ work remains as vital as ever, his political significance has never been more relevant. Yet in the country that might benefit most from his message of justice and acceptance of the other, he is instead in danger of being culturally disappeared. Fatéma Bakhaï, once a lawyer but now a respected Oranian novelist, addressed and

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embodied this contradiction when I spoke to her over the phone from Algiers. I asked her why Camus cannot be embraced by Algerians, and why he is being scrubbed from the country’s cultural memory. “Well, that is wrong and is not what should be happening,” said the thoughtful Bakhaï. “Of course, he was a great humanist, a pacifist.” “Isn’t that something that should be celebrated?” I said. “Can Algeria not make a hero out of someone who was in an impossible situation?” She paused. “That’s not the point. He had Algeria in his blood. But Camus never learned Arabic or Berber, and although he saw what colonialism was doing to Algerians, he never touched it with his own hand. He was never an Algerian, he was always an Algérie-Francaise. For him, it was always about Algeria within France, never about Algeria without France. For him Algeria only began in 1830 when France colonized it. He never said yes to Algéria as Algeria.” “But he was paralyzed in the 1950s. He couldn’t choose one side or the other.” “Which became his choice. The wrong choice.” I was silent for a moment. “Still,” said Bakhaï, sensing perhaps that I perceived her words as harsh. “Should we study him? Yes. He should be read here, I think. But that is all.” I mentioned that another writer, who I didn’t name, had suggested that Camus’ first school should be called the Lyceé Albert Camus. I asked her if there should one day be a square or boulevard in Algiers named after Camus, even if only to spark the curiousity of Algerian youth. “Jamais!” she said. “There are too many who gave their lives for Algeria who we should honour first.” I thanked her for her time, wished her well. I left Algiers the next day. As the plane arced up and over the bay before heading out across the Mediterranean, I could see the entire sprawling city from my window seat. It seemed less troubled, less chaotic, almost serene, a place easier to imagine as the one Camus had loved so much. But Bakhaï’s words leapt back into my head. There had been so little hesitation, such intensity. Jamais! Never! L’Étranger indeed. EB

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WE ARRIVED BY TRAIN TO A FUR-TRADING POST post and, together with tourists in tees and shorts, walked an S -shaped dirt road in Fort Edmonton Park through a century of local history. Sipping Evian and fanning themselves with the museum map, visitors stopped in mock antique buildings, encountering actors playing such historical figures as Hudson Bay trader John Rowand and Alberta’s inaugural premier Alexander Rutherford. As we strolled, not a single person took notice of the living legend at my side, Eddy Haymour. He was familiar with the park’s landmarks, partly due to the annual membership in his wallet, but mostly because this living museum closely resembled the modest city he moved to in 1955 and not the sprawling urban landscape it has become. He pointed to a replica hotel, where he applied for his first job in Canada, and then led me into the reproduced Capital Theatre, where, in the original downtown space, he’d watched his first movie, Island in the Sun, on the big screen. After a brash sensory experience in the theatre, Haymour led me across the railway to the original Al-Rasheed Masjid, Canada’s first purpose-built mosque; the entire original building had been relocated recently to this site to ensure its preservation. “See this space,” he said, pointing to a grassy lot between two spruce trees. “That’s the barbershop. The tour guide could tell them the history of the mosque and that I was married in there—but that I was a modern Muslim. A nd then would come the stor y of the barbershop, where they’d learn more about me. A concerned look came over his face as he patted his pockets. He’d lost his glasses. On the way back to the theatre to find them, he elaborated on his plan to build a replica of the 4 Haymours, his barbershop that became a destination for Edmonton’s elite in the 1960s. If his plan came to be, he told me, then the park’s 200,000 annual visitors could learn about, and from, his humble immigrant journey that took him from the fields of Lebanon to the ballrooms of Canada, from being a timid barber to a business mogul. He dreams about getting it built in his

lifetime; he wants a few years to do the storytelling himself. Haymour tells his life story best in his hushed, campfire voice. I’ve heard it many times. It used to pour from his mouth rich as Turkish coffee but lately it peters out, falters, gets lost in cul-de-sacs of memory as plain English words disintegrate before him. His monuments and achievements have mostly been forgotten, and so too has the maverick. He is desperate to see a snappy twenty-something actor recreating the Haymour story, bolstering the Haymour legend. Instead, all he can see for the moment, reflected back from the window of an old theatre, is the sagging face of an eightythree-year-old man in a white windbreaker, squinting under his bony, spotted hand. Haymour turned around, blushing as he reached into his jacket and retrieved black, horn-rimmed glasses. They hadn’t left his pocket. Later, at the park’s diner, he put them on as he unveiled and read his proposal to the Fort Edmonton Park committee. The letterhead read: “Heaven Before I Die.”

IN T HE UNDE RGROUND PA R K ING L O T OF T HE Canadian Embassy in Beirut, on February 23, 1976, Eddy Haymour, pointing with his AK-47, directed two of his cousins to the third floor, another cousin to halt the elevator, and another to follow him up to the second level. Haymour sprinted up the stairwell, charged through the steel doors and pointed his weapon at the first person he saw: a senior citizen, presumably waiting for visa documents. “Stand up,” Haymour told him, “put your hands behind your back and put your face to the wall.” The man remained seated, dumbfounded, until Haymour repeated himself in Arabic. The old man dropped to the floor, begging for God’s mercy. When the embassy staff and clients arrived to investigate they found assault rifles pointed at them. One employee, the trade commissioner, had met with the lead gunman—Haymour—several times over the past four months to help him sell construction materials on behalf of a Canadian manufacturer. Or at least that’s what Haymour had told him. “Is this a joke?” the commissioner said. WWW.EIGHTEENBRIDGES.COM

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Haymour rocked him in the shoulder with the butt of the rifle. After picking himself up, the commissioner, along with approximately twenty diplomats, staffers and stunned Canadian visitors, were hurriedly led to the stairwell and up to the third floor, where Haymour’s cousins had captives of their own. There were thirty-three hostages in all, but the one that mattered most, the one Haymour wanted—the chargé d’affaires to the Arab region—was missing. “Where’s Sullivan?” Haymour asked the hostages. “He’s not here,” replied an assistant. “Bullshit!” yelled Haymour. “I saw him from my apartment.” W hat the diplomat ic st a f f were learning was that the wealthy Canadian businessman they’d been helping for months was a conman. They’d later learn that he’d spent most of the last two years behind bars and padded doors, and the past six weeks stalking chargé d’affaires Alan William Sullivan from an apartment across the street. Haymour knew there was only one place Sullivan could be hiding. At first it appeared Sullivan’s office was empty until Haymour noticed a leg under the desk. “Come out,” he said, pulling Sullivan by the pant sleeve. The chargé d’affaires crawled out on his hands and knees. Haymour directed him down the stairwell, through the hallway and into a room where the other hostages were facing a wall. “If anyone has a weapon, throw it down, otherwise you’ll be wiped out.” No weapons were produced. Haymour lowered his gun, then turned to Sullivan. He softened his tone. “I didn’t come here to hurt you, because if any of you get hurt I’ll be the first to lose. I came to ask for your help.” He paused. “Here’s my story.”

THREE THOUSAND YEARS AGO, IN YEMEN, THE Haymour Dynasty ruled the desert with thirty-five successive kings and queens. Or so Eddy Haymour told Sullivan, in beginning his story. I was unable to locate this dynasty in my research, though I did find a Himyar Kingdom that lasted six centuries until 500 CE. But the absence of evidence didn’t make the story less 52

true for Haymour then or when he told it to me in his Edmonton apartment almost forty years later. He repeated it with the same conviction it had been told to him as a child. He’s embedded himself in this narrative and filters every story about himself through his imagined bloodline. It was this level of self-regard that convinced him he could leave Lebanon at twenty-five, nearly penniless, to find his fortune overseas, that he could enter a business knowing only two English words (“Me barber”) and get a job, that he could open a college in Edmonton to train women to cut men’s hair at a t i me when t hey weren’t even allowed in the same bars. Decades later, a psychiatrist would tell a court that Haymour “suffered from a delusional state.” But what is so delusional about a man who achieves his dreams? And where is the suffering? In 1960, five years after his arrival, Haymour was granted Canadian citizenship. To celebrate, he threw a lavish party with Middle Eastern fare, belly dancers and 250 of Edmonton’s brightest lights, including t wo cit y mayors, Lieutenant Governor J. Percy Page and Alberta Health Minister J. Donovan Ross. “That was the best day of my life,” Eddy has said. That night, he wore a white tux and bow-tie and, as he sat with his new wife Loreen, a nineteen-year-old farm girl, the provincial secretary toasted him: “I can assure Eddy that he will never be disappointed with Canada.”

THINGS MOVE AT A SLOWER PACE IN PEACHland, west of Kelowna on Highway 97: the speed limit in spots is thirty kilometres an hour. It seems an unlikely place for the once fast-talking Haymour to show up at town hall in 1971 in what one councillor described as a “zoot suit” and relate his vision for his newest property, Rattlesnake Island. Haymour, Loreen and their four kids had recently moved to the area and he was looking for a landmark project. The island, privately listed in a newspaper and three kilometres off the Peachland coast in Lake Okanagan, would be the canvas on which he was going to paint his masterpiece.

He paid the owner $10,000 for the five-acre island separated from Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park by a narrow strait. It wasn’t exactly a bargain considering the uselessness of the landmass. It looked like the mountain’s severed, misshapen digit, where little grew but for a few lopsided pine trees. It was known less for what lived upon it than underneath it—the mythical serpent Ogopogo, Lake Okanagan’s version of Loch Ness, which the local First Nations tribe, the Westbank, believed dwelled in a cave below the island. But when Haymour looked at the island he saw an opportunity to create his own folklore. The Moroccan Shadou Theme Park, he told the town councillors, would bring together both of his cultures, Arabian and Canadian, and embrace the multicultural spirit Pierre Trudeau had championed. “I had a vision to do something good for the country,” Haymour told me. A mini-golf course, partly on the water, partly on the rocks, that would wind through miniature Great Pyramids; a stor yteller ever y twent y feet (some on donkey, some making bread, some charming snakes); and his favourite, a concrete camel, “thirty-six feet tall by twenty-six feet wide, with steps to go into his stomach and thirty-nine flavours of ice cream inside.” The first phase alone of Moroccan Shadou would end up costing Haymour $300,000. But money wasn’t the problem, at least not at first. Though he had many supporters, including Peachland’s mayor, others balked at the project and protested to newspapers and councillors. Concerns ranged from disrupting the peace and quiet to an unseemly barge Haymour had made out of tires, but the biggest concerns were raised by a conservationist schoolteacher named Desmond Loan who thought Haymour would be desecrating the island. It didn’t matter to Loan, who also sat on town council, that Haymour bought the land privately. Few even knew, or cared, that it was not public land. Loan and other locals had designated it a picnic site, but Haymour’s plan, he told journalists, would turn it into “Coney Island.” As Don Wilson, a


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“You’ve got a mix of Aladdin and Bin Laden,” said his son Lee. “How do you write that down?”


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volunteer museum curator, put it, “Des was strongly opposed to the developments on Rattlesnake Island and I believe he disliked Eddy until he passed away.” Loan, however, isn’t dead. He’s well into his later years and resides in an assisted living centre in the area. His daughter, Daphne Flanagan, agreed to meet me at a local café. Tears came over her as she reminisced about the onceimmaculate Okanagan Valley, now handed over to developers for strip malls and urban sprawl. “My father had very high values. He thought there should be a gate on either side of the valley, that it should be a national park.” Eddy Haymour, to her father, to her, was part of the problem. “He just wanted to come and make a fast buck, and had no concern for how he was leaving the land.” Naturally, that’s not quite how Haymour remembers it. His engineer told him the development was structurally and environmentally sound, but no matter how prudent his plan, locals protested about the disruption and worried that sewage disposal would pollute the

though today the rationale behind that drive is difficult to objectively identify. It seems reasonable to assume it involved some form of xenophobia. Provincial bureaucrats embarked on a campaign to grind Haymour down with endless and, at times, fake red tape. At one point, Municipal Affairs tried to stop Haymour by sending him a telegram informing him of an amendment to the Pollution Act clearly drafted to thwart him, but which hadn’t even been passed at that point. It was intimidation, plain and simple. Many years later, as the legalities were being played out, a 1986 Supreme Court file would note that, “the sending of such a telegram in advance of a regulation being enacted was highly unusual … Haymour was justified in ignoring it.” In fact, that file stated, “ the government was caught in an embarrassing situation.” In an effort to shrink government, the Social Credit party had recently handed the creation and definition of new zoning laws to the districts but this transition had stalled due to local bureaucratic in-

In two years he’d gone from a wealthy, respectable father to a lonely man with a barren island.

left. My advice is go to Victoria and kiss their ass, ask them to buy the island, and go back to Edmonton.’” He followed that advice, but was offered a paltry $40,000, a fraction of what he’d already sunk into the island. He rejected the offer and doubled-down. He organized a press conference for a single journalist from the Kelowna Capital News and theatrically blew out a birthday cake for his now estranged children. According to the reporter’s account, Haymour said “if he were not allowed to proceed with his development, he would drink human blood and eat human flesh to mark a black day for Canada.” It was obvious to those around him that his mental health was eroding. In two years he’d gone from a wealthy, respectable father to a lonely man with a barren island, the justifications for which seeming opaque and conspiratorial. He continued his Sisyphean effort but it became less about his dream and more about revenge. The violence that had infected his thoughts would shock what few supporters he had left, but it wasn’t a surprise to his estranged wife, Loreen. Decades after their divorce, the hostage taking and shortly after 9/11, she penned her side of their story in a self-published book. It was entitled Married to a Terrorist.

LOREEN JANZEN NOW LIVES IN CALDER LAKE, district’s water supply. Unconvinced by the engineer’s report, Loan voiced his concerns in a letter to his brother-in-law, then-British Columbia Health Minister Ray Loffmark, who passed it on to the provincial chief medical officer, who spread the message to no fewer than four other departments as well as the office of Premier W.A.C. Bennett. The provincial riding of OkanaganSimilkameen, which encompassed both Peachland and Rattlesnake Island, happened to be the Premier’s riding, a fact that only heightened the medical officer’s negative reaction. In his internal memo, he suggested they “could scotch it by exprop[riation].” There was never a moment’s hesitation from the provincial government that they were going to put a halt to Haymour’s development, 54

efficiencies. Basically, no one had gotten around to it—not even in the Premier’s own riding. Because Haymour hadn’t stopped building for more than ninety days at a time, he could do with the land as he pleased: build a house, open a barbershop, construct a wall. But every time he closed his eyes and pictured the island he saw pyramids and a giant cement camel. “They took me to court three times and lost three times,” Haymour told me. He persevered, but after two years the struggle began to exhaust both his finances and his marriage. He had been so focused on his dream that he neglected his family. Loreen took the children, including the newest addition to the family, baby Troy, back to Alberta. “My lawyer said, ‘Eddy, I can win any case but the problem is you don’t have any money

about three hours north of Edmonton. She declined to be interviewed for this article, leaving only her book to tell her version of events, which paints Haymour as physically abusive, sex-crazed and swindling. The book is also culturally insensitive, at best, conflating as it does the entire Arab region into a single B-roll of honour killings, niqabs and fundamentalists. When read in tandem with Haymour’s 1992 self-published book, From Nuthouse to Castle, the reader is left with a classic he-said/she-said. I called their son Lee Haymour. “You could say one is truer than the other, but as for the percentage?” he said, joking. His mother’s truth, he told me, is the lesser truth and her book is “more like her perception of how things were than the reality.” However, he added, it’s true that his father was occasionally violent to her, and once as a


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Clockwise, from upper left: Haymour dressed in the castle; the castle then; the castle now; Rattlesnake Island, lake Okanagan child Lee Haymour called the RCMP to intervene. (According to Eddy Haymour, it happened only once at a “desperate” time.) Lee Haymour did make a point, however, of telling me that during his parents’ first separation in the late 1960s, his father kidnapped the children, took them to Lebanon and then left them in a private boarding school while he travelled the Middle East. “We all thought we were going to Kelowna for the day,” said Lee. The reason for the travel, Eddy Haymour later told me, was to establish a network of political connections in the Lebanese parliament, the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Jordanian palace. L ater, in 1973, after British Columbia bureaucrats stymied his theme park and after Land Titles insulted him with its paltry offer, he put some of these contacts to use. Haymour announced to his one confidant in British Columbia, his friend Ralph Schouten, that he was taking a six-week trip to the Middle East to drum up political support for his cause and that he was going to visit King Abdullah. His intentions, he said, were to leverage letters of solidarity to shame the British

Columbia gover nment into let t ing him build his park or offer him a better deal. He did, in fact, procure such letters from various Lebanese ministers, including former prime minister Amin al-Hafez, but that ’s not what he told Schouten when he ret urned to the Okanagan that winter. Haymour’s version of the events that took place immediately upon his return runs like this: The morning Haymour got back from the Middle East, Schouten dropped by unannounced, which caught Haymour by surprise, since he hadn’t told anyone he was home. Haymour, his suspicions aroused, decided he wanted to test Schouten. He told Schouten he’d returned with “six letter bombs” and would need official RCMP detachment envelopes in which to send them (so as to give the packages an official air). Schouten agreed to try and get the envelopes, and came back later that morning with them in hand. The ease with which Schouten secured the envelopes made Haymour even more suspicious. He wondered how his confidant and friend had managed it so quickly. Later that day, Haymour went to Schouten’s house

with the now-sealed RCMP envelopes and asked his friend to address and then send them to the Premier, to Des Loan, to his wife Loreen and to his other sworn enemies. Haymour says he did this to test Schouten’s loyalty, like Abraham on the mountain. Haymour left the envelopes on Schouten’s table and walked out of the house. The police were waiting outside. Schouten, it transpired, was an RCMP informant. He had befriended Haymour via the ruse that he was a vengeful airline attendant fired for pocketing money off ticket sales. Perhaps the persona was created to play into recent Palestinian hijackings. It worked. Haymour had shared all his frustration and anger. The RCMP had been following a trail of bizarre threats for months. According to a court file, Haymour—never a man to ignore the open arms of hyperbole and exaggeration—had told Schouten he was trying to obtain an M-14, one hundred thousand rounds of ammunition, Russian grenades, that he had contacted an explosives expert in Washington state and that he had several passports and ties to guerrillas. Now the RCMP thought they had hard evidence. They had letter bombs. But when they opened the letter bombs they found letters of political support from various Arab dignitaries. Haymour had wrapped them in cloth to give them physical weight, he says, to prank the RCMP into thinking they were explosives. “I wanted to show them they were fools,” he told me. According to the court file, the letter bombs were “duds” but “realistically resembled letter bombs.” The court documents also note that prior to Haymour’s arrest, he “expressed to the said Ralph Schouten the belief that the six envelopes were in fact ‘letter bombs’.” T h i r t y- s even cha rges r a ng i ng from unlaw ful possession of explo sives to attempted wilful damage to property were laid against Eddy Haymour. But as his claims and threats were p a r s e d out a nd reve a le d a s either hyperbole or delusion (depending on whom you ask), so too were the charges reduced, to a single misdemeanour: possession of two child-sized WWW.EIGHTEENBRIDGES.COM

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brass knuckles he bought for fifteen cents in Lebanon and hoped to give Lee if he ever saw his kids again. Haymour wanted to plead guilty, which would have led to a fine, but the crown took the unusual act of forcing an insanity position, maintaining that Haymour so believed in his outlandish and violent claims that he was a danger to the people he’d threatened, particularly those in government. The judge ordered that Haymour be held without bail. As the trial stretched on for seven months, he was moved between remand and various jails. He was allowed one trip to sign over the deed to Rattlesnake Island, selling it and its incomplete development to the government for a pittance. After he signed and put the pen back on the table, the handcuffs that had been briefly removed from his wrists were returned, and so was he, to his cell.

used to label Hay mour insane. On September 19th of that year he was sent to Riverview Hospital, a psychiatric institution in Port Coquitlam, where he would be kept in strict custody for an indefinite period. Eddy Haymour was a barber, he was an immigrant developer, he was a bit of a hustler and now, simply because he had picked the wrong location to express his dream and because he possessed an overdeveloped sense of his own historical importance, he was jailed in a notorious mental facility. Among the residents of Riverview was William Lepine, who went on a killing spree after escaping in 1972.

HAYMOUR PASSED THE TIME AT RIVERVIEW cutting hair and leading an arts and crafts club, where he built an elaborate miniature plywood and glue model of a high-density development. He told anyone who asked that it was a mock-up for a

As Haymour and his cousins were rounding up hostages in the Canadian consulate in Beirut, hundreds of spectators gathered around the embassy on Hamra Street. In jail, he cut other inmate’s hair and intently listened to their stories, while having to retell his own to psychiatrists sent to assess him. One doctor attributed most of his behaviour to a cultural background “that accepts violence as a way of life.” Four others, however, believed Haymour’s behaviour was attributable to paranoid schizophrenia and other psychoses. “My impression over all,” wrote Dr. R.L. Whitman, “was that he suffered from a delusional state which was systematized, specifically that he believed that he was being harassed by civil servants, and specifically this harassment arose out of the desire of Mr. Bennett to accumulate this property for himself or his children … [this is] not the kind of evidence that a normal person would accept.” A decade later, it emerged that Haymour was being harassed by civil ser vants and the British Columbia government did conspire to expropriate his island. But in 1974, the psychiatrist’s report was just one piece of evidence 56

theme park on Rattlesnake Island. In the context of a mental hospital, his boundless imagination seemed to find a comfortable home, but he never stopped pursuing his release. With the dogged assistance of Robert Gardner, a defence lawyer who represented other Riverview patients, Haymour secured his release after twelve months on a writ of habeas corpus though he maintains that he and his lawyer quietly made a deal with the parole board that if released he’d leave the country. When Haymour walked out of Riverview he took his elaborate mock-up with him. Just blocks from Riverview was a large construction firm called Synkoloid Metal Products. Posing as a Lebanese entrepreneur and showcasing his elaborate architectural model, Hay mour ingrat iated himsel f w ith George Clayton, Synkoloid’s president. He hooked Clayton on the excitement of building this project overseas, showing Clayton the miniature office towers, the suspension bridges, the apartments, the attractions. He convinced Clayton that

he’d be able to raise millions through his Middle Eastern connections. Clayton bought in and even considered opening an office in Beirut. Haymour now had his cover to operate in Lebanon. As Clayton later told Canadian Business magazine, “I guess you might say I was the victim of an elaborate con job.”

FIVE MONTHS LATER, AS HAYMOUR AND HIS cousins were rounding up hostages in the Canadian consulate in Beirut, hundreds of spectators gathered around the embassy on Hamra Street, Beirut’s centre of commerce and liberalism. This street was one of the few areas considered neutral in a nation on the verge of civil war. The entire country was on edge, ready to combust, and all that was needed was a single spark. As word of the hostage-taking spread, the army and militants from competing Muslim and Christian factions surrounded the consulate with tanks and rocket launchers, each vying for control. It began to seem likely that Haymour’s siege might be that spark. Inside, Haymour finished recounting his story to Alan Sullivan, who then opened a line to Ottawa. Haymour’s demand to speak with Prime Minister Trudeau, however, was denied. Instead, Ottawa authorized Sullivan to negotiate around his other demands, which, according to a London Times report, were a public apology from the Crown and from the psychiatrists who declared him insane, another $500,000 for his island and development, a pardon from the Lebanese government and the return of his children to his care. Lee Haymour, who was fourteen at the time, remembers overhearing his mother on the phone discussing his father’s demands with James Armstrong Richardson, the Canadian minister of defence. “We were scared,” he said. “We thought we were going to get traded and would have to go back there. I had no thoughts about what he was feeling or where he had been, what he was trying to do. We were just thinking, Are we going to get traded for hostages?” Ottawa would later deny negotiating these demands but Lebanon didn’t. Even Janzen wrote in her book that on the day of the attack she’d been told by Richardson that a plane was


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awaiting her and the children. Fourteen hours after storming the embassy, Haymour surrendered. The Lebanese government fined him a few hundred dollars. Haymour says the Canadian government bought him a plane ticket home. He didn’t get his kids back, and the apology and compensation would have to wait. But he returned to Canadian soil a free man.

of Eddy Haymour, the man who left his country with $1 and arrived with $17 by cutting hair on ship; the man who made himself wealthy; the man who had a vision to bring people and cultures together at a new theme park; the man who fought the government and brought it to its knees.

HAYMOUR CURRENTLY LIVES IN A SENIORS’ complex, after having shuffled around between low-rent apartment buildings where he worked as a building manager. The walls of his retirement suite are decorated with the architectural renderings of his would-be island park. He called me over one day recently to share important news, but wouldn’t elaborate over the phone. When I arrived, I remarked that he was now living quite close to his original barbershop from the 1950s, the 4 Haymours. “Closer to heaven,” he replied. He placed a mug of coffee for me on the only empty spot of his kitchen table; the rest of the surface was under messy stacks of papers. His thin memoir sat atop blueprints of unrealized projects. A photocopy of an ancient, multi-coloured clay house that he believes his Yemeni ancestors built peeked from the edges of a file folder. This house was a project he’d envisioned a few years earlier; he planned to rebuild it as his mausoleum but, not surprisingly, couldn’t find a partner willing to allow the fossilization on their property. I sipped my coffee, imagining that he’d called me over to discuss news about his Fort Edmonton Park proposal to recreate his barbershop (a discussion that made me nervous, because in the course of a recent interview, a board member said they’d rejected the concept because the park’s master narrative was focused on the period between 1865 and the 1920s). But that wasn’t why Haymour called me over. He wanted to talk Hollywood. He wanted my opinion about a synopsis of his life story he hoped the Alberta Film Commission would put “in the right hands.” I listened as he yet again relayed his life story, burrowing ever deeper into his self-mythology: It was the story

A wealthier man would simply buy himself a place in time. He would finance the movie himself or maybe fund a university building in his name. Haymour could have been that man but now his only currency is his mythology, a currency that time is devaluing. There is surprisingly little known about the siege of the embassy in Beirut. There seem to be few existing memos or transcripts, though at least twice in 1976 an Alberta MP tabled potential legal action against Haymour in the House of Commons. Archives Canada does have a file on Haymour, but access is restricted until 2015. The Department of Foreign Affairs didn’t provide much more; even those on the Middle Eastern desk hadn’t heard of Haymour or the hostage-taking, though my media liaison seemed fascinated by the saga. Of course, whatever discussions took place behind the doors of Parliament in February of 1976, the outcome was radically different than the one we’d expect today. As Prime Minister Harper has stated on numerous occasions: “Canada does not negotiate with terrorists.” There are laws in place now, such as the Combating Terrorism Act, first created by the Chrétien government and reinstated by the Harper government several weeks after the Boston Marathon

bombings, that would allow for and encourage putting someone like Haymour on trial in Canada for crimes committed outside the countr y—if he’d ever made it back to Canada, that is. But the word terrorist was not commonly used when Haymour and his cousins attacked the embassy in the 1970s. Even when Haymour’s name appeared on the cover of the Globe and Mail, he and his accomplices were “gunmen” and their attack a “siege.” Read with post-9/11 eyes, a person couldn’t be faulted for thinking of Haymour as a terrorist but most people in Peachland tolerated him and others even heralded him as a hero, as a man courageously standing up for his rights. The local historian Richard Smith, who like many in the area assumed Haymour was dead until I called and told him otherwise, told me that most residents had welcomed his return. Nobody sympathized more than Pat Hay, an Okanagan banker whom Haymour courted and married soon after his return. (They have since divorced. Like Loreen Janzen, Hay declined to comment for this story.) Throughout the early 1980s, she helped drum up public and legal support for Haymour, who continued to battle the British Columbia government upon his return, arguing for more compensation or the right to pursue his project unchallenged. His case had been thrown out of a lower court, Haymour took it to the Supreme Court. In 1985, CBC’s The Fifth Estate aired a documentary about Haymour, weaving a narrative about an ambitious immigrant who dared to dream only to be thwarted by the government and who was then forced to take justice into his own hands. The following year, in 1986, the Supreme Court ruled on Haymour’s case. It found that Haymour had indeed been wronged. “On the evidence before me, he was justified in having the [paranoid] belief he did,” Supreme Court Justice Gordon MacKinnon wrote. “To subject the plaintiff to that charade was, in my view, highly improper if not consciously cruel.” The British Columbia government was ordered to pay Haymour damages for the island amounting to approximately WWW.EIGHTEENBRIDGES.COM

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$250,000. The amount didn’t compensate him fully for what he’d invested, but the formal vindication from the highest court in the land was compensation beyond measure. A fter the judgement, Haymour, friends and family, including six-year-old daughter Fadwa, rafted over to Rattlesnake Island (which had, in the intervening years, been annexed as part of Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park exactly as his first nemesis, Desmond Loan, wanted). A CBC crew was there to capture the jubilation as Haymour and his group of supporters danced beside the stone firepit he’d constructed fifteen years earlier. Haymour no longer owned the island and his theme park would never be built on that site but when the video footage of their celebration was rebroadcast to the nation, it was clear Eddy Haymour had won.

Golden Age This one is for the girls who got themselves to the party and didn’t get home, girls who got drunk like angels--glimmering, disappearing--then woke up under a towel in a strange hotel. This is the glass of words to toast your bad choices, the wink of a boy tonguing your navel. Unconsciously your own desire to be touched was a claim you couldn’t stake, a willow that needed water. This is the blame you’ve birthed, cradled and nursed, blame that won’t leave home because you didn’t bite, didn’t sit up, you just closed your eyes and drifted on a sad river of burning alcohol. This is for all the passive girls, the ones who sucked off popular boys, the ones who half-wanted to be wanted,


half wanted to die. To die a little death

justice, and closure? Eddy Haymour was free and had been vindicated, but he had not finished writing the story he wanted to leave for his family. “I want to have an ending to Haymour,” he told me. With some of the money from his settlement, he partnered with his nephew, a successful Kelowna businessman, Jamel Abougoush, and built the Castle Haymour Fantasy Inn on the outskirts of Peachland, directly across from Rattlesnake Island. The inn featured Arabian-themed bedrooms, ten-course Lebanese feasts, a belly dancer and, at every dinner, a storyteller: Eddy Haymour. “If he was in the middle of the story, don’t even bother him,” his daughter Fadwa, who is closest to him, told me. Those were the best days for Fadwa, who had a princess-themed room in the Castle, though one thing never sat well with her—the statue of her grimacing father pointing across the lake to the island. “It was right underneath my bedroom balcony. I mean, I got the point of it but I hated it. It was so embarrassing and it was a complete, life-size replica.” There was a period when it looked like her father’s myth-making might amount to something lasting. With CBC’s backing, Omni Film Productions of Vancouver took out an option on his life

as you did then, when you came to school


and the rumor was he’d fucked you with the handle of a broom while you were floating down the Ganges, the Nile, the Fraser, the Thames. Gone: was it true or wasn’t it? There was no pain, it was a lie, it was a myth. This is for you, bitch, snatch of gossip in the hall, twist of hair, sucker punch. This is for me, too: girl of the skinned knees who couldn’t name the names of those who’d passed through her body. This is for leaving school, or staying. For the dangerous damaged pack we make, the way we smell blood where other girls smell roses. Sinister sorority! Who knew that one day we would consider ourselves lucky to have been raped in the golden age of rape, before violation was caught on an iphone: posted, reposted. Look! A close-up on sleeping beauty digitally defiled and then digitally defiled. What poisoned apple blocks her throat from screaming? Boots jostle. Time fucks faster now. Featherweight, angelweight, song of floating above the below. Blow and she’s still still: moth dust, shimmer. Unbuckle your belt, her eyelids. She can’t move away, can’t change schools. Even dead, there is no escape. Link it. Click like. It takes three thousand views in three hours to make a myth. –Rachel Rose


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story in 1988 for $100,000, but the Toronto screenwriter Paul Ledoux struggled to make him sympathetic to Western audiences. “There was a shift in what was going on in the world of terrorism,” Ledoux told me in a recent interview. “The [first Palestinian] intifada coloured the way people would look at it.” Omni released the option and a smaller A merican company picked it up. But it too eventually dropped the project. Haymour’s story was dramatized in 1994 by Western Canada Theatre, in Kamloops. But with a small budget, a single stage and six actors, playwright John Lazarus had to find an elegant solution to convey this epic spanning two continents and three decades. The actors played actors workshopping a play about Haymour, with an additional character playing the subject who walks onto the set to fix the story his own way. It took a new dimension when a third Eddy Haymour, the real one, arrived from Peachland to attend rehearsals and at least a few shows. “He’d sit in the front row … turn around and laugh with the audience,” recalled Lazarus. “He went up on stage at the curtain call and took a bow with the actors. I had the impression that he was taking a bow for his life, which I thought was peculiar. I sometimes had the feeling that he was obsessed with his story being told.” The Trials of Eddy Haymour never got a second production. “I do think that there’s some truth to the idea that it’s hard to sell a sympathetic Lebanese Muslim man with A K- 47s and hand g renades i n t he present cl i mate,” Lazarus told me. “But I think it’s a great Canadian story.” Haymour’s tale, and myth, steadily began to lose its lustre. So did the Castle Haymour Fantasy Inn. He sold his shares back to his nephew in 2003. By then, he and Pat Hay had separated, so Haymour returned to Edmonton, the city that made him, hoping for better luck. And as his recent call to me demonstrated, he is still hard at work trying to find someone to help him get the story of his life told. “I put my heart into it,” Haymour said to me about the movie version of his story. “I never for one second think it’s not going to be made.”

THIS PAST MARCH, I STAYED THREE NIGHTS at the former Castle Haymour, which is now Peachland Castle. Pulling into the driveway, though, it was clear that the image on the cover of his book, From Nuthouse to Castle, was never fully realized. It was half the size, there was no grand skywalk and the mystical Arabian decor inside had been replaced with sparse, plain furniture. It was off-season in the Okanagan and it transpired that the majority of the other ‘guests’ in the hotel were recently released patients from a nearby hospital’s psychiatric ward. The hotel owners had forged a deal with the hospital to help get them on their feet. The title of Haymour’s book had been reversed and realized. My fellow guests were completely unaware of the history of the building they inhabited but allowed me to indulge them after dinner that first night. Soon my audience, a labourer of retirement age and a twenty-one year old woman who’d been homeless for much of her adolescence, were caught up in the story. Both having been hospitalized for psychiatric treatment, they saw themselves in Haymour. Perhaps they felt his vindication and triumph more firmly; it was hard to say. When I was done, I gave the young woman a copy of Haymour’s memoir (which I’d found in the hotel). After three days, I could see that she still hadn’t touched it. Aside from the book, all other traces of Haymour have been erased from the site, including the statue. I asked around Peachland, and although no one could tell me what had become of it, long-time town residents had not forgotten Haymour or his statue.

HAYMOUR’S STORY STILL FASCINATES AROUND Peachland, to a degree, but the legend is beginning to warp and weave. “I’ve heard rumours,” a woman at the local tourism information centre told me. “I heard they found cameras in the Castle. Well, not cameras, but peepholes.” (The current owner found no such thing during renovations.) At the Blind Angler restaurant, a waitress told me that Haymour “got put in jail for taking the Canadian consulate hostage in Iran.” Her co-worker knew the name: “the crazy guy who thought that he owned Rattlesnake Island?” “It’s like the story around the camp-

fire,” Don Wilson, the museum interpreter said to me. “You know, how when you tell it and it comes back to you it doesn’t bear any resemblance to the original story. It gets added to as it goes.” Even those who know Haymour best acknowledge how difficult it is to tell where reality ends and fantasy takes over. “Maybe a lot of people just don’t know how to put him in a history book,” his son Lee told me. “How do you? You’ve got a mix of Aladdin and Bin Laden—how do you write that down? And what’s true and what’s not?” On my last day in Peachland, I set out for Rattlesnake Island in a rented boat with John Tooners, a local guide who frequently takes visitors across the lake on wine tours while relaying tales of the Ogopogo lake monster. As Tooners steered us closer to the island, it appeared smaller and smaller. Even from the boat, I could see that most of what stood on the island was wrecked or disposed of. I climbed out and onto the rocks where the dock, along with the pyramid, had been long ago shattered and removed by environmentalists. Chunks of cement remained, broken in half, with rebar sprouting like steel weeds. I could easily make out the nine-hole mini-golf course, which was fractured by mounting earth, the cups so full of grass a golf ball wouldn’t fall in. A graffiti artist had bombed the enormous brick barbe cue pit with the tag “4Get.” As I walked around the island, a kind of sadness came over me. This had been a man’s dream, conceived and constructed to represent and celebrate his life, his myth, his people, his ancestry. And now it was vanishing. I returned to the boat and stepped back in. I asked Tooners if he ever told tourists about the man who went to jail and a mental hospital and who held an embassy hostage over the rights to this island? “Oh yes,” he said brightly. “People love it.” I thought this would please Eddy Haymour, this small sign that others also believed in the power of his story. As we puttered back across the lake, I asked Tooners to tell me the tale. It was a brief and not particularly magical telling. We neared shore as he finished. “And that,” he said, turning off the boat engine, “is the story of Mr. Haley.” EB WWW.EIGHTEENBRIDGES.COM

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he young soldier lay near the edge of the forest, in the brush behind a hillock. He’d lain there for several hours, propping himself on his one good shoulder and alternately watching and not watching his other shoulder bleed through the jacket he’d tightened around it. Morning fog was just lifting. Not far from the edge of the forest was a large meadow, with streams and bushes, and beyond it the start of a village, with narrow house fronts and orchards or vegetable gardens extending behind the houses. Old Mr. Hrgović, better known as Hrga, scanned the grass and the brush and the line of trees, and spotted the soldier not far from where he stood. Hrga could even see the bloody shoulder and could read the awkward unselfconscious posture of a person in all-enveloping pain. The front line had been near Hrga’s house for months now, and he had lived in his house, here in Eastern



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Croatia, for some forty-five years before that. He remembered that other war, and had fought in it too; this war was still young, but already he was full-up with what he’d seen and heard since the first blockades of the summer, the first mortar attacks, and the first news of burning houses and bodies at the sides of roads. The roads, the forest, the hillocks and the grass, the orchards of this Slavonian village, could not be anyone’s but his—he knew this without needing to articulate it, without complication. Those trying to occupy it were insane, that was clear to him. He felt both sides—the Serb side and his own Croat side—to be intrusions. And his side he had to tolerate. The soldiers, some of whom he knew from the village and most of whom were decent and ordinary, came by his house and he fed them when he could and shared his brandy with them. Last night there had been heavy fire and by sunrise he suspected something had moved, the Serb forces had been pushed back. Through the night he’d smoked cigarettes in the dark under the walnut tree. It was his tree and his yard. He did not want to stay inside. Whose business was it whether he hid in the house or sat on the bench he’d built under his tree? Now the morning was dewy and cool with a smell of wet earth and wet leaves. He’d walked out to see how things looked. He kept walking, beyond where he should have, into a small wooded area that had recently become no man’s land. He kept walking because he had felt some new anger during the night. His sons and daughters were in turn angry with him for living like this, alone, so near the front. For weapons he had a rifle he had hunted with for decades, a handgun and a few hand grenades. His children all lived abroad and two of them had grandchildren of their own, and he kept all the photographs he was sent in a neat row lined up next to the bread box. The soldier reclining against the hillock heard the steps coming toward him, the shifting swoosh of the grass. His head was too stiff to move and he angled his eyes as far as he could to see who was approaching. To Hrga, the man’s eyes seemed at first dead and then insanely focused. He

took off his cap and leaned over the man, as much as his back would allow, not very low. “Where are you wounded?” he said. The soldier’s right side was all blood, blood that had spread from the right shoulder, had soaked the jacket tied around it. The left hand was bloody. He wore faded fatigues and a black shirt with lettering—a sports shirt. His rifle, a Kalashnikov, was in the grass next to his good left arm. Near that arm was a wet pack of cigarettes—Hrga looked at the brand, but he had already understood whose side the soldier was from. The man let out a croak and Hrga knew immediately he was thirsty, dried out. He’d been that dried out once. He straightened himself and looked out towards the river, and then back in the direction he’d come from. He knew these fields but he could not stay here now. “Nothing but for you to come with me,” he said, more to himself than to the man. Everything was quiet, at the moment, in all directions. Hrga was further from his house than usual, but not especially far—had he not used to set fox traps not far from here, in the years before the war? He thought he knew where the Croats were standing guard, and he knew the Serb side was even further in the other direction. “I’m going to move you now,” Hrga said. “Where to?” the soldier croaked. In the hours he spent in this spot he’d dragged himself to, shapes like clouds of gas, in colours of black and rust and pale green, had inflated and deflated in slow succession in the darkness behind his closed eyelids. In the last hour they had been appearing in front of his open eyes too, obscuring the grass and the trunks of oak trees. Their inflation and deflation had a rhythm, and he thought that if he was forced to move and lost this rhythm he would not be able to control himself anymore. “Don’t worry,” the old man said and crouched beside him. He felt he was with one of his children when they were very young and had been caught in a transgression and hurt—there was in the soldier’s body and eyes the same terrified, hopeful, naked surrender. And in Hrga,

the same parental anger toward the child who had caused the disaster, yet also pity at the child’s pain. “Your shoulder’s gone,” he said, “but did it get you anywhere else?” The soldier wanted to speak but after those first words he could not activate the mechanism again. Instead he looked toward his twisted ankle, the left one. “We’ll start anyway, slowly,” Hrga said. He moved the man to sitting. He picked up the pack of smokes, put it in his own pants pocket, and slung the Kalashnikov over his shoulder. He put the man’s good arm around his neck and his hand around his torso. The man smelled metallic, and yeasty, like a drying mushroom, and sour. His pant leg was wet. The two men stood up. The grass under their feet was still wet. The day was not sunny, but lit by brightness that comes from behind clouds and gives hyper-real sharpness to everything. In front of the soldier’s eyes clouds and balls of light were exploding and threatening to topple him. “Steady now,” Hrga said. He didn’t know if this was a dying man or not. When he’d lifted him he’d seen the blood that had soaked the ground under him. When they’d reached the hillock before the road, the soldier said, “I can’t.” They stood for a moment and then the old man began moving again and the young man did too. They crossed the road and made it to the house from behind, through Hrga’s orchard. Hrga had taken to sleeping in the room that was both kitchen and living room and kept the sofa bed pulled out all the time. On it he now laid the soldier. His own arms trembled with exertion. “All right,” he said, mostly to himself. “It’s good now.” He brought a glass of water to the man, which he filled by dunking the glass in the pot of water he’d boiled last night. After the man drank it he brought him another. Then he brought out his brandy and poured two small glasses, which they drank at the same time. The soldier winced in swallowing. “It’s a good one,” he said. His chest had expanded after he’d drunk the water and his voice was clearer now. “It burns, doesn’t it.” Hrga crouched by the sofa, feeling the crunch in his WWW.EIGHTEENBRIDGES.COM

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knees, and unlaced the man’s boots, took them off with a grunt, and then found a clean bed sheet and gauze and a towel and scissors. He cut the man’s shirt straight across the front and pulled it away from his body. He wet the towel with water from the pot and squeezed the water from it on the man’s wound. “It’s gone to hell, hasn’t it,” the soldier said. The removal of his stinking, soggy, leaden boots was a great, if temporary, relief. “You have your head and you have your legs,” Hrga said. He stuffed gauze and bandaged, cut the sheet into squares and wrapped it around the shoulder, under the opposite armpit. The soldier passed into unconsciousness for minutes at a time and then returned into pain. He was young and scruffy, with a dirty beard and bad skin. Hrga brought aspirin, four in the palm of his hand, a pointless offering. The next thing would be food, he thought. He was hard up for bread. He opened a can of pork and heated it up.

He looked out the small, high window at the bit of sky and a branch of his walnut tree. “All right,” he said, “all right.” He got down to his knees, with difficulty, and pulled off the man’s pants, then his underwear. “Some things just have to get done,” he said, with more shrillness than he’d intended. His knees hurt a great deal, as always when he tried to kneel or crouch. This pain, and the soldier’s unrelenting soft crying, made him irritated, so he shook out the clean underwear, shook out the folded pants, and worked as quickly as he could to pull them both up halfway to the man’s thighs. Then he could not bear it anymore and creakily lowered himself to sit on the floor and lean against the tub. The man stopped crying. To avoid looking at Hrga, he looked up, and he noticed the small window high in the wall, and he saw the sky and the tree branch.

The room was blankly dark, with only the broadest outlines. It smelled of blood and stale bedding. “Listen,” the soldier said, “I should go to the bathroom.” His eyes were glassy and bloodshot, and his face shone with fever. Hrga nodded and stood up. “No, I’ll do it myself,” the man said— but he found he could not prop himself up with his good arm alone. So they went together down the long hallway to the bathroom. The old man helped him sit on the toilet, and then he turned away, started scraping at the grime of the sink. Then it occurred to him to give the soldier a new pair of underwear and pants. “Wait here,” he said. He found clean things he hadn’t worn in a long time—he’d been wearing his overalls for months now. When he returned to the bathroom the man was crying silently and there was a new line of sweat around his hairline. The old man asked him if he could stand. He kept crying. Hrga waited. He held the folded wool pants, underwear and socks in both hands, and he waited, and the man kept crying. 62

He imagined standing on top of the toilet bowl and opening the window to look outside: there’d be new air, and the sight of a familiar yard—a shed, a water pump, a defunct chicken coop, grass between concrete. Driven by this vision, he managed this time to use his right arm to hold on to the edge of the bathtub and raise himself to standing, and Hrga, seeing this, stood up with difficulty too, and pulled up the underwear and the pants quickly over the man’s hips. As Hrga tugged up the zipper, the soldier said thank you, which sounded odd to both of them, a politeness suited to cafés and grocery shops, to favours done between friends. Hrga said nothing in return and they silently made the long walk down the hall together. Throughout the day and evening Hrga put tered about a nd the ma n stayed on the sofa, finding the rhythm of his pain and sometimes blacking out or dreaming. His face in repose was blank, his mouth slightly open—fleshy lips, straight nose, and straight, thick

eyebrows on a wide face, pockmarked from acne. A handsome man, the old man thought, despite the bad skin and dirty beard and too-long hair. Late in the evening the man was most present, and they ate and drank and smoked. “Do you have children?” Hrga asked. “No. Wife can’t have any.” The television was turned on, with the sound low, and the living room smelled of warm food and cigarette smoke. “I have five. Not one of them lives here. My wife died two years ago. It was hard for me when she died, but I see now that it was for the better.” “I think my wife could do without me. Only my mother will miss me. Where are all your children?” “Is your mother old?” “Seventy-one. She was old when she had me. She has a bad heart.” The man’s voice was strained. Hrga brought him more water, then refilled his brandy glass. “Whatever made you leave her and come down here?” Hrga said. The man looked straight ahead. Hrga then walked out into his yard and sat on the bench and looked into the darkness over the low wall surrounding his yard and orchard. In the night that followed the man slept on the pulled-out sofa and Hrga on a small bed that had stayed in the corner since the children used to take their naps on it. The soldier did not move much in the night, but he often exhaled heavily. The room was blankly dark, with only the broadest outlines. It smelled of blood and stale bedding. Hrga focused his eyes into the darkness and imagined the outlines of the furniture. In the night the reality of what he could and could not do became stark. Officially, he should have turned the soldier over to the Croat side so they could exchange him for one of their own. But underneath the rules, underneath the neat line-up of men simply changing sides on some crossroad, some former school house, lay a dark corridor of unofficial space and time, ruled by those with the guns, and what could Hrga control about what they did with those guns? All their violent longings, all the beautiful certainty of self-validating power—you have it, and


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therefore you must be entitled to have it— what could Hrga do with those? And Hrga could not return him to the man’s own side either. Odd, then, how the soldier’s existence seemed now like a kind of non-existence—he was not any place, not any place where he could be found by those caring to find him, not anywhere where he could stay. Hrga thought of the soldier’s men, why they didn’t return for him—maybe they were planning to after daylight and Hrga had beat them to it. He knew later that he’d fallen asleep because he dreamt—himself, in the shade of his tree, and outside the gate, crunchy noises, like wheels on gravel, and light gun fire, and distant rumbling, and he knew that he should be threatened and also that the noise was irrelevant. He woke up when the soldier ’s phlegmy snoring broke through to his consciousness. He rose out of bed and walked over to him—his eyes were glazed again and he was sweaty. The old man thought, he will die here, and what will I have had to do with it? “What can I bring you?” he whispered. He found more aspirin and made the man swallow it, and went back to his bed. In the early morning they shared bread with big spoons of rubbery cherry jam. The soldier could not eat much. The day outside was bright and the window let in cool air. After the bread and jam breakfast, Hrga sat in a kitchen chair next to the sofa smoking the man’s cigarettes. Hrga was thinking of his children, and then of this man and his mother. There were things he wanted to understand. “When my youngest son came to say goodbye,” Hrga said, “before he was to fly on a plane to Toronto, I wouldn’t walk him out to the gate. I just sat on that bench and watched him and his mother at the gate, she holding his face and crying. He probably thought I would get up and follow. But I didn’t. Then I raised my hand to say goodbye. They both stood facing me, like they didn’t understand. Finally he nodded and left.” “I know,” the man managed to say. Every time he closed his eyes the familiar clouds of gas inflated in great rapidity and in acutely bright ugly colours, and with increasing intensity he felt the screaming

yellows and lurid oranges pressing on his retinas, his eye sockets, his brain. He wanted to say more, but when he began to speak again his words devolved into gurgles. Hrga thought he could still be rallied. He thought there were things they might still tell each other. He made some cold compresses out of old towels, and once they were applied the man started to breathe evenly and to fall into a kind of sleep. Not long after, a group of undertrained, malnourished soldiers came through Hrga’s gate and walked into the house without knocking, not expecting anything but breakfast and drink and a table to sit at. They saw the man and they took him away—after eating and drinking and washing up and cursing and re-lacing their boots. Hrga said they should take him to hospital. They said they would though he didn’t deserve it. The young soldier seemed not quite conscious as they moved him out to their car. They were, variously, shifty-eyed and boisterous and decent and tired and out of their depth and in a perfect depth. Hrga watched them pull the man along, forces within them aligning or conflicting. Hrga followed them outside the gate, and after watching them drive away, the back of the man’s black-haired head visible through the back window, he stood looking, across the road, beyond the houses and their fields and orchards, in the direction of the forest, which was just visible from where he stood. The old man saw now that the fields and the forests were not really his, after all, no more than anything was anyone’s, no more than his children, whom he’d also tended and lived alongside of, were his, not in the way that word, possessive pronoun, could be used to mean freedom to control. He loved them— or were they just a part of him, intensely familiar?—but that did not entitle him to anything. He went inside, to the kitchen, and took a side of bacon out of the cupboard. No one is entitled to anything or anyone, he said to himself, slicing his bacon into small squares. He placed the pieces one by one into an uneven-bottomed pan in which he always fried bacon and eggs. He lit a match to turn on the burner.

A quiet whoosh, before the restrained sizzle of the fat. No one, nothing, he said, as he moved to the fridge and carefully took out the three remaining eggs with his calloused, stiff hands. He lined them up next to the pan, the fat really lively now, shooting up, and cracked them one by one. Before the whites were cooked, he took the pan off the burner and put it on the table. The bread in the bread box was hard and he patted it down with water. He sat at the table and cut up the eggs into bite-sized pieces. The yolks spilled over and mixed with the whites and with the bacon fat, and all of it covered the bacon pieces. He tore off chunks of bread and threw them into the pan, then used his fork to pick up egg and fat and bacon on each piece of bread. This was the way he’d eaten eggs for many years. Only this time his hand trembled slightly and occasionally he lost a piece from his fork. He stopped saying things out loud. He ate this way until he had sopped up everything, until he moved the last piece of hard bread in a circle around the little black pan, leaving nothing behind. Then he washed up—the table, the pan, his hands and face. He walked out to his shed, where the soldier’s Kalashnikov was propped up. He picked it up. Then he closed his eyes, pictured the face of each of his children, from oldest to youngest. With a tired, stiff heart, he lifted his arm, managed to put the barrel to his temple, and pressed his finger to the trigger. T hree days later, three soldiers found him. The oldest among them had known Hrga since the start of the war, and although he was full-up with all of it too, and they were all tired and stiff, still he insisted that they carry the old man’s body to the sofa in the living room, and there they laid him out, straightened the limbs, wrapped a shirt around what was left of his head. In the shed they cleaned up as best they could the human tissue clinging to the wood, the shovels, the old flower pots still filled with soil. They poured buckets of water on the blood stains. Only then did the two younger soldiers look through the old man’s cupboards and find the side of smoked bacon wrapped in brown paper and the bottles of brandy underneath the sink, all of which they took with them. EB WWW.EIGHTEENBRIDGES.COM

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SOUNDINGS Taking the measure


Designer Labels // By SCOTT MESSENGER



f it’s true the Internet has gutted the music industry, small market, independent record labels should no longer exist. In theory and out of self-interest, artists and creators should have abandoned these little middlemen en masse to harness the potential of online marketing, hosting, distribution and (don’t laugh) revenue generation. By now, the indie labels should have fallen silent, conceded to the remaining majors and gone the way of the 8-track tape. Many have. But another reality is that independent labels have never been more important to, and effective at, fostering and promoting Canadian music at home and abroad. The problem with them now is that, in parts of the country that badly need them, there aren’t enough. Or at least enough viable ones. This summer marked the tenth anniversary of Toronto’s Arts and Crafts, offering a rare reminder of the impact of these companies on Canadian culture. Home to Can-con hit makers Feist, Stars and Broken Social Scene—the collective for which the business began—the label staged a commemorative music festival, was recognized with a book by House

of Anansi (short stories inspired by BSS’s 2003 debut, You Forgot it in People), and was lauded by the press. And why shouldn’t it be celebrated? The label has been a regular at the Junos, where its artists have collected twemty awards. It has missed the Polaris Prize shortlist just once before placing Feist’s Metals as the winner in 2012. Tally total record sales in the hundreds of thousands. Labels like Arts and Crafts—and Dine Alone, Mint, Nettwerk, Six Shooter and more—beat the odds for a couple of reasons. One is persisting need. Most musicians, even those looking to make it in the industry, are not industry minded. Successes arise because “there’s always one guy in a band who got stuff done,” says Brent Oliver, an indie music veteran based in Edmonton. An alumnus of several recording acts and once a label owner too, Oliver was that guy. Nonetheless, he’d tell you a strong DIY ethic only goes so far. “Artists need labels more than ever,” he argues, “because it’s just so noisy for [them] with the Internet.” A label with the right reputation can lift musicians out of the cacophony of MySpace, Bandcamp, YouTube, Soundcloud and other oversubscribed online WWW.EIGHTEENBRIDGES.COM

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distribution tools wielded in the battle for blog mentions, if not just tweets. Another reason labels live on is they’ve grown wiser, less set in their ways. Once, money would have been made primar ily on record sales. Today, “label should almost be in quotes,” says Oliver. “They diversified. A cool indie label that would sell seven-inches and CDs and flexidiscs and whatever— nobody’s going to make it like that. They expanded into management, publicity, publishing, distribution.” Arts and Crafts has the capacity for a “360 deal” when it makes sense. Which for artists, Oliver points out, can be often. “The pie is only so small,” he says, pointedly avoiding the word big. Rather than slice away for managers, manufacturers, distributors, M&M sorters and whatever else, artists opt for packages. What’s more, some indie labels are sweetening deals by selling songs to TV and film, where they then advertise for themselves. “You can kind of double dip,” says Oliver.

Acts in cities like Saskatoon and Edmonton pay Sisyphean dues for years, then in desperation try rolling their stones out of town. While the indie industry has done well to diversify its services, it hasn’t been as successful in diversifying geographically. Sure, little labels pop up in garages and basements all the time, but too often as ephemeral ventures. We have yet to see an unbroken string of strong labels across the country. Between Toronto and Vancouver, for instance, gaps persist. High quality, viable acts in cities like Saskatoon and Edmonton pay Sisyphean dues for years, then in desperation try rolling their stones out of town. Unless they’re rolling in Winnipeg. For the model of how to fill those gaps, Oliver points to Manitoba Music, the province’s pan-genre, not-for-profit industry association. In essence, the music community there has codified fending for itself. “Neither before nor after Napster, Winnipeg has never been close to major labels,” says executive director Sara Stasiuk. “So there has always been— had to be—a thriving independent music scene and an aggressive DIY attitude.” As proof, there are upwards of twenty labels in the province of just 1.3 million people, nullifying the population density argument. There are twice that many labels in Ontario, but ten times the population. Discussing scene- and label-building, Stasiuk leans hard on un-rock ‘n’ roll lingo. From her viewpoint, artists double as entrepreneurs—“you have to know the business, right?”— and curriculum is vital to success—“one of our biggest pillars is education.” Manitoban labels aren’t setting the tone for 66

Canadian music the way Arts and Crafts might be, but they produce “a lot of stars in the genres,” she says. The Weakerthans for rock and Propagandhi for metal, for example. They’ve also proved their potential in the past, with the Guess Who and Crash Test Dummies which in turn suggests that a strong scene can go a long way in producing not just more Canadian music, but music particular to place. “That’s what Canada’s fabric is all about,” says Stasiuk, “the way one region is completely different from the next”. Even if the demand remains strong for independent labels, it still isn’t easy to run one given the state of recorded music sales, which are slightly on the rise but aren’t what they once were. Just as Oliver nods in Stasiuk’s direction, she points back to Edmonton and at Holger Petersen as worthy of emulation. His label, Stony Plain Records, is likely—in terms of sheer longevity—the region’s most successful ever, making it almost a shame that he has never crossed over to support the rock, pop and metal acts perpetually looking for a stable home in the city. Instead, he has channelled his efforts into producing a steady stream of roots, blues and country since 1976. “It’s always difficult. It’s not something that entrepreneurs look to invest in,” says Petersen, who has released records by the likes of Ian Tyson, Long John Baldry and Steve Earle. “We survived because we have a very strong back catalogue.” These days, he’ll do about eight projects a year, half or so by Canadians. In the past, he has brought blues legends to record in the city. He has brought ideas for records to musicians and helped strike up collaborations that wouldn’t have happened otherwise, such as the pairing of blues artists Duke Robillard and Ronnie Earl on 2005’s The Duke and the Earl. Financially, such business decisions have always been risky, but Stony Plain hasn’t lasted this long by seeking success measured solely by the bottom line. When radio stations around the world receive one of Petersen’s records, he believes they know what quality to expect before it spins. “We’ve survived on our own terms.” Years after watching his own label fold, Oliver is upbeat. In Alberta, he sees a community interested in staying put and “looking out for each other”; he finds hope in new events, including the Edmonton Music Awards and he knows, recession or no, there’s still a lot of money available to spend in the province. “I’m more positive about the scene now than I have been in years.” Despite knowing how hard it is for a new label to become an old one, Petersen is also optimistic. As he sees it, the new record businesses that emerge in the wake of Arts and Crafts’ success will prosper not only because of people like Stasiuk being ready and willing to back them up but because of the unstoppable force of will. “You can’t deny the work of artists, whatever the field is,” he says. “They will find ways to make it work.” EB


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The Path of Your Own Choosing // By JAY SMITH



read that Larry Takahashi, “the balaclava rapist,” was temporarily released on parole into a Victoria halfway house, until Christmas Eve. He was responsible for dozens of rapes in Edmonton between 1976 and 1983. The newspapers say he led a double life; the other was that of a “model citizen.” He donned his mask and attacked women. Many women. When I hear stories like this one, I feel a grain of fear implant itself in my mind which is rapidly succeeded by a sense of anger; it was so easy. I’m like a lot of women in that I consider being in my city a right. Yet, there’s that grain lodged in the back of my head when I’m walking after dark. Or running at six p.m. in our perpetual night of winter. It’s just a kernel of fear, hidden in back-shelf thoughts, and I feel embarrassed talking aloud about it. My rational mind knows that the odds of being randomly attacked are beyond low. I’m far more likely to sprain an ankle. But, still. So even in 2013, while we’re busy lauding walkable cities, there remains not far below the surface the notion that women shouldn’t be out alone, especially at night. You can check the “walk score” of your neighbourhood online, yet we’re still encouraged to venture out fearfully, fist parsed with car keys on the fastest route to their car. Beyond the simple-mindedness of “be afraid,” however, a trio of new books challenge the ways women can engage with their cities. Two of these are books of poetry, sybil unrest by Larissa Lai and Rita Wong, and TUFT by Kim Minkus; the third is Thea Bowering’s book of short stories, Love at Last Sight.

sybil unrest is a book whose pages should be wheat-pasted to the mouths of anyone who says poetry is an irrelevant art form in the 21st century. Lai and Wong reimagine sibyls, those prophetesses of the ancient world, uttering (said Heraclitus) “with frenzied mouth ... things not to be laughed at,” in a playful cross-pollination with “civil unrest.” The result is a scathing, delightful, sneaky critique of 21st century social and environmental injustice. The fruitfulness of this cross-pollination is abundant: in one poem, “the composting hero / determined to cultivate her garden” has hens that lay gorgon eggs. The narrator imagines a city wherein “edible weeds retake / the city in which I lull you / out of consumerism.” This is, the poem says, a template of citizenry, of civil unrest, where community gardens transform the terrain of magical hens giving birth to immortal monstresses, and where aggressive (and pre-eminently practical) plants erode business-as-usual. It ’s granola permaculture high on Greek mytholog y and lesbianism. Lai and Wong argue that we typically think of ourselves in our cities as independent and self-sufficient individuals. If our cities have just one problem, according to sybil unrest, it would be that we forget how interconnected we are in the urban environment. They praise “goddesses [who] sign in triplicate / ‘the pleasures of being multiple’.” This ability to occupy multiple perspectives in our society, they suggest, is WWW.EIGHTEENBRIDGES.COM

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related to the condition of being female. The poem on the next page describes an empathy between such females and [...] the barbed dolls stiff with artifice leak plastic trauma choke on missing addresses I take this as how a (wonderful, perhaps supernatural) female perspective has immediate sympathy with those who are not ‘hailed’ into our society as meaningful and meaning-making citizens. The play on Barbie dolls/barbed dolls is a perfect description of a sex-trade worker: somehow occupying the ideal of social beauty, but brutally. And of course, sex workers, or at least the ones most vulnerable, are ‘street walkers,’ which reinforces the fundamental anxiety of women walking the streets alone. An urban utopia, says sybil unrest, is where women on the streets never truly walk alone.

SIMILARLY, THE NARRATOR IN TUFT, FELLOW VANCOUVERITE KIM Minkus’ third book of poetry, embraces a multiplicity of perspectives. Whereas Lai and Wong dance through mythology, pop culture and theory, Minkus takes a more ecological tact. Throughout TUFT, “animals and the city talk to each other.” Minkus is also captivated by the figure of the flâneur, the itinerant stroller of streets that first appeared in French literature of the 19th century. The idea was that the “man of the crowd” has a privileged perspective on society, a sort of walking ethnologist exploring the city. Except in TUFT, it’s a dream sequence: a bird “exhausted by song” visits the dreaming narrator and grasps her in its claws. The bird takes flight and, says the narrator, “with skin and rib rubbing / new spaces for my city are revealed.” In a sort of airborne flânerie, she has, literally, a bird’s-eye-view on the “green boutique city” where “green strangl(es) light and machine.” Adopting the perspective of a bird allows Minkus to show how powerful green space is in urbanity—have you ever been surprised by how green a city is when you fly into it? Throughout this, the figure of the female narrator is continually one of exceptional wisdom about and fertility within an urban context. The all-caps declaration, “WE ARE / WOMEN IN LOVE WITH / OUR CITY!” recurs. And how do these wise women demonstrate their love for their city? They soar above it and look at it from a bird’s-eye view, they walk through it, its streets and grocery stores. They “lick the linings of our [city’s] machines,” they inhabit the inhabited machine. Lai and Wong imagine a city where women are psychically and spiritually entangled so no woman walks alone; likewise, Minkus’ woman is always surrounded by a love-fuelled eco-urban-animism.

LIKE MINKUS, BOWERING EMBRACES THE FLÂNEUR, HERS FROM Edmonton’s bar strip on Whyte Avenue. The characters that appear in her short stories, her debut collection, however, 68

are pitiable. Imagine a dour, bohemian who’s-who: musicians with commitment anxiety, high-ponytailed beauties who exude “wherever you are, look like you don’t want to be there” snobbery, grocery clerks who snort at the narrator for having left “Lotusland” for “Deadmonton.” A character announces with snide knowingness: “Edmonton is a suburb of itself.” It’s a harsh and largely joyless depiction of Edmonton. Outside the Deadmonton crucible of stories, which permits the flâneur’s biting commentary on the city, however, there’s a story called “The Monster, or the deferred subject.” It describes the sexual awakening of a young woman who has taken to prowling the street, peering into homes and watching families, peering into bars and watching friends. “This is the secret walking I’ve been doing since I’ve been old enough to want It,” confesses the narrator. (‘It’ being her surging and insatiable sexual appetite.) This itinerant female is really cruising, not just taking, desultorily, the alleys on the way to school. It’s a complete inversion of how women, particularly young women, are “supposed” to walk the streets. She is the voracious streetwalking sexual appetite your mother warned you about. This can be contrasted with how the narrator feels about the domesticity women are meant to inhabit. “Betty and Veronica’s hard mounds looked more like erections under their sweater sets than breasts,” says the narrator, “and then there was Ken with his polite hill, like a woman’s pelvic bone ... Over and over, the excitement of possibility was betrayed by blank stares of skin. These lumps were holding something in, interchangeable alien life pushing through the plastic. That was Its first censorship, when I first knew my moves were being monitored by corporations.” It’s an amazing passage in that it implies that these dolls, these inanimate objects, are secretly policing the sexual awakening of girls. Of course, those “blank stares of skin” aren’t skin at all—it’s a plastic surface created by, in the case of Barbie and Ken, Mattel. The story emphasizes how thoroughly women’s gaze is thwarted—idealized women’s breasts resemble erections more than breasts, but erections are molded away. Her first notions of sexual awareness, like many or all women in North American society, are already neutralized—and neutered. Nonetheless, the narrator is lush with monstrosity, seeping with sex. And she cruises, prowls, walks the streets. And while she does this, she looks where she will and gazes at whatever she wishes. It might be unsettling to some to think of women like this, not content to venture fearfully to their vehicles, skirting terror with auto-locking doors. And so I wonder: Is this my double life? Imagining myself as a gorgon, with a snake-haired gaze that can turn potential aggressors to stone? A free movement of desire, lofting in and through my stomping ground, with an invincible body? Is that how you lose that flitty shadow, that niggling after-dark river valley fear? I don’t know. If nothing else, this trio of books is a reminder of how wide the limits of our city are when we cross-pollinate them with the imaginary. And of how interconnected we are when we just start walking. EB


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his past June, a San Diego couple staged a baconthemed wedding. The bride carried rosettes of crisp bacon in her bouquet. The groom sported a bacon boutonniere. Guests threw bacon bits, rather than rice. And the happy newlyweds honeymooned at Baltimore’s annual Pigtown Festival. For quite some time now, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, we’ve been on a bacon-bender. We have bacon-of-the-month clubs, bacon salt, baconnaise, chocolate-covered bacon, chicken-fried bacon, bacon lattes, bacon-wrapped cheesecake, bacon doughnuts and bacon ice cream. There’s bacon in everything and on everything. There’s even Bakon Vodka, part of a recent mixological mainstreaming of “carnivorous cocktails” for those who crave meat-in-a-glass novelty. It’s not just about bacon as the thing we eat, either. There are bacon apps for our smartphones, bacon-themed apparel, bacon Band-aids, Camp Bacon, annually, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and bacon coffins (thankfully not made of real bacon, but with bacon decaling) so you can be buried in a casket that reminds your loved ones that you loved smoked pork belly up to your final breath and beyond. The simultaneous tipping points which begat bacon mania, as it’s officially known, happened in mid-2007. Just as

Portland hipsters started to sully their handlebar moustaches with bacon-maple handcrafted artisan doughnuts, Wendy’s unleashed its 840-calorie double-burger, festooned with six strips of bacon, across the US and Canada. (Wendy’s sold sixtyeight million Baconator burgers in the first eight months, breathing life into the then-ailing chain.) The foodertai and the fast food masses were simultaneously smitten and there was an odd cultural moment in the late 2000’s when we were one people—male and female, young and old, left-wing and right-wing, rich and poor—under bacon. To be fair, the first rumblings were fun, and oddly democratic. Bacon-garnished pastries were a refreshing bit of whimsy to usher out the bubble-economy craziness of savoury desserts, molecular gastronomy, and $40 entrées. As the economy went south, bacon made gains. We retreated into the Saturday morning comfort food of our childhoods, and soothed ourselves with strips of inexpensive, salty, sweet fat and animal protein. Not only was it a cheerful taste memory of simpler times, it was a jackpot food source to our primitive brains, which, after all, evolved over millennia of calorie scarcity, not sixty years of the drive-thru window. In other words, we’re hardwired to seek out energy-dense fat that pleases our palate. The sweetness of bacon signals immediately available WWW.EIGHTEENBRIDGES.COM

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energy, while providing the essential salt our bodies can’t function without. To taste bacon is to love it, at least from an evolutionary standpoint.

FOOD CRITICS HAVE BEEN BLEATING ABOUT THE VULGARITY OF BACON overload and penning its obituary for a few years now, but it manages to reinvent itself with a vengeance every six months or so. (Baconnaise is dead! Long live bacon mouthwash!) It has proved to be a food trend with nine lives, and it’s enough to make even the most seasoned food writer lose his or her bearing. This spring, in a moment of still-hot-ornot trend-guessing confusion, I found myself in a Denny’s in Golden, British Columbia, pondering the coronary crouching tiger of its Baconalia promotion. I settled on the bacon maple milkshake, purely for research purposes. It had an obvious salty-sweet appeal, and the only punishment I suffered was the calorie overload.

While bacon salt and bacon jam and bacon chocolate are culinary novelties for some, for others they are an entry-level drug. Toronto’s bacon lovers weren’t so lucky earlier this August. At the CNE, 223 people got seriously ill from eating the-now-infamous Cronut burger, a patty wedged between a croissant and a donut. Of course, that was not enough calories, so bacon jam was smeared across the whole enterprise. The jam contained Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria that produces gut-wrenching toxins of the most unpleasant kind. Though fortunately no one perished from it, the toxin angle buried the real issue. While it was important to discover how people were getting sick from the Cronut Burger, the real question we should have been collectively asking was why? Namely, why did a horrifying 7,500-calorie double patty sandwiched between a sugar-laden trans fats hybrid of a croissant and doughnut even exist? And why did it need bacon jam? Why was this Frankenburger perceived as an indulgent-yet-otherwise-innocent treat at a summer fair? Why did people not know that ingesting five times your daily energy requirement in one go was a disaster lying-in-weight? Had we lost all self-control and culinary common sense and become a drooling mob moaning baaaaaay-con with every shuffle forward?

YES, ACTUALLY. BECAUSE, ACCORDING TO SCRIPPS RESEARCH INSTITUTE professor Paul Kenney and his research associate Paul Johnson, the more bacon we eat, the more we want. In their March 2010 study “Addiction-Like Reward Dysfunction and Compulsive Eating in Obese Rats,” published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, Kenney and Johnson reported that when they fed rats bacon, sausage and cheesecake, the high-fat diet 70

rewired the rats’ brains so that compulsive overeating habits took over and they consumed larger quantities of high-calorie, high-fat foods until they become obese. When given more nutritious options, the bacon-fed rats “always went for the worst types of food, and as a result, they took in twice the calories as the control rats.” Furthermore, they added, this research is, “as far as we know, the strongest support for the idea that overeating of palatable food can become habitual in the same manner and through the same mechanisms as consumption of drugs of abuse.” Which means that bacon is, literally, addictive. So while bacon salt and bacon jam and bacon chocolate are culinary novelties for some, for others they are an entrylevel drug leading to the Bacon Explosion, an Internet sensation recipe, in which two pounds of strip bacon forms a lattice casing around two pounds of sausage filling. Don’t worry, it’s not as bad as the Cronut Burger. The Bacon Explosion is only 5,000 calories.

IN THE SPRING OF 2013, THE EUROPEAN PROSPECTIVE INVESTIGATION into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) was published and it involved over a half-million men and women from ten countries over a mean span of twelve years. The study pointed a chubby, atherosclerotic finger at bacon. High consumption of processed meats—specifically bacon, sausage and ham—by middle-aged adults was associated with a near doubling of the risk of all-cause mortality. Risk of cardiovascular death—still the number one killer worldwide and the number two killer of Canadians after lung cancer—was increased by more than seventy percent among those who ate over 160 grams of processed meats a day. And risks of cancer deaths rose to fortythree percent of those heavy users of salty, cured meats. Most recently, in October, Harvard University researchers released a study linking poor semen quality to a man’s consumption of processed meats like hot dogs and bacon. (Whereas eating white fish such as cod or halibut had the opposite effect.) Now, having been told what we probably already knew, that too much bacon is bad for us in many ways (without even getting into the environmental or ethical implications of our bacon excesses), the more pertinent question is, What are we going to do about it? Is it too naïve and optimistic to suggest that we simply move on to other foods? There are these things called vegetables that are said to be quite good. Of course, we should seek out novelty, variety, and flavour in our foods, but how about in foods that nourish us rather than sicken us? Lettuces, roots, squashes, tomatoes, potatoes, legumes, chilis and even umbellifers (plants grown for their edible leaf stalks like celery and fennel). You want variety and novelty? There are over 3,000 known types of potato. An added bonus is that broccoli and Brussels sprouts won’t clog our arteries or turn us into addicted rats. Unless, of course, we deep-fry our veggies in bacon fat and smother them in rashers. At least then the bacon coffin will have been well and truly earned. EB


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The Thirst for the Worst // By PAUL MATWYCHUK



s it possible to build a business model around a factory that intentionally only turns out defective products? For about a dozen years now, the American basic-cable outfit Syfy has been operating under that very philosophy—let’s call it the Bialystock Method, after the corrupt Broadway impresario played by Zero Mostel in The Producers. Ever since 2001, Syfy has aired more than 200 original TV-movies, commissioned from a variety of production companies but all conforming to the same purposely low aesthetic standards: laptop-grade special effects, sub-functional dialogue and casts headlined by former teen idols, reality-TV personalities and pride-swallowing down-on-their-luck character actors. Everything about them was designed to be forgotten within minutes, except perhaps for their energetically outrageous titles. Piranhaconda. Mega Python vs. Gatoroid. Stonehenge Apocalypse. This past July, Syfy accidentally found its very own Springtime for Hitler when it unveiled a film bearing the inspired title Sharknado. On the surface, there was little to distinguish Sharknado from its dozens of schlocky predecessors—just three months earlier, for instance, Syfy had aired an Erik Estrada movie called Chupacabra vs. The Alamo to little notice. But something about the idea of tabloid fixture Tara Reid battling a tropical storm filled with man-eating sharks tickled the fancy of a large and influential enough group of online personalities—Patton Oswalt, Damon Lindelof, Wil Wheaton, Rob Delaney, all of whom live-tweeted the Shark-

nado premiere—to create a very rare type of pop culture artifact: an instantly celebrated bad movie. Plan Nine From Outer Space had to marinate in obscurity for twenty years before finally getting recognized as the worst movie ever made; Sharknado was notorious before it even finished airing. Perhaps it was Mia Farrow claiming on Twitter that she was watching it with Philip Roth that pushed it over the top. In any case, just three weeks later, midnight screenings of Sharknado, a movie that was never intended to be anything more than a timeslot-filling made-for-cable cheapie, were already taking place in movie theatres across the United States. One would need a heart of stone to deny the pleasures of seeing Ian Ziering dive into the mouth of a killer shark… and then chainsaw his way out of its stomach. At the same time, the public’s eager, ironic embrace of Sharknado feels like a step backwards in the evolution of the appreciation of bad movies. So many of the movies that make up today’s most popular genres—superhero adventures, computer-animated family films, raunchy comedies—feel synthetic and plastic. It’s depressing to think that our most popular bad movies might start to feel just as prefabricated.

IF ONE WANTED TO PINPOINT THE DAWN OF THE MODERN ERA OF BADmovie appreciation, you could do worse than 1980, when brothers Harry and Michael Medved published the book The Golden Turkey Awards. Prior to the Medveds, bad movies WWW.EIGHTEENBRIDGES.COM

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tended to be appreciated only by aesthetic outsiders: the surrealists who revered the dreamlike 1935 Gary Cooper melodrama Peter Ibbetson, the pre-Stonewall gays who bonded over their adoration of Maria Montez B-movies and off-brand Joan Crawford soap operas, the pot activists who used the 1936 anti-marijuana scare film Reefer Madness as a fundraising tool, the adolescent comic-book geeks who tuned in to watch local TV hosts like Vampira, Ghoulardi, and Zacherley make fun of grade-Z horror movies. Where the rest of the world saw junk, these fans saw the accidental masterworks lying hidden just underneath the surface, the secret autobiography of the director or the actor being written in the spaces between those flickering frames. The Golden Turkey Awards changed all that—or at least, it brought to popular notice the work of an artist so laughably inept that no one needed special skills to take pleasure in his movies: Edward D. Wood Jr., a fringe figure on the 1950s Los Angeles showbiz scene whom the Medveds anointed as “Worst Director of All Time” while naming his no-budget 1959 sci-fi/horror opus Plan Nine From Outer Space the “Worst Film of All Time.” As a filmmaker, Wood was an anti-savant—a man whose movies weren’t just terrible, but terrible in a myriad of fascinating, laughable, constantly unpredictable, touchingly earnest ways. Wood seemed to have an instinctive genius for sensing the precise moment when an audience’s amusement in his mesmerizingly stilted dialogue would start to flag, whereupon he would cut away immediately to a nonsensical stock-footage montage, an inept special effect or an actor momentarily forgetting his lines or obliviously knocking over a cardboard gravestone. Wood’s bizarre off-screen life—his transvestism, his fetish for angora sweaters, his friendship with Bela Lugosi, all of which found their way into his films on multiple occasions—only burnished his legend. To film fans reading about Wood in the 1980s, his sets began to seem like charmed spaces where every artistic choice somehow managed to be more absurd than the last: on Plan Nine, Wood famously hired his chiropractor to double for Bela Lugosi (the film’s top-billed star, despite having died before production began) by delivering his entire performance with a Dracula cape pulled over his face. How Wood was able to sustain this level of inexplicable, miraculous badness not just through one film, but in several films made over the course of a dozen years, remains one of cinema’s great creative riddles. The discovery of Wood’s oeuvre ushered in a brief wave of popular interest in bad movies—a compilation film called It Came From Hollywood, essentially a highlight reel of clips from a few dozen Golden Turkey-style oldies and hosted by Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, and Cheech and Chong, even enjoyed a wide theatrical release in 1982. But Wood soon began to look like a category-killer. It seemed unlikely that another movie would come along where the action onscreen and the off-screen production history would combine in the same magical way as Wood spectacles like Plan Nine or Glen or Glenda. 72

Occasional candidates would surface—the gymnastics/ martial arts adventure Gymkata, John Travolta’s L. Ron Hubbard adaptation Battlefield Earth, the Ben Affleck/Jennifer Lopez flop Gigli—but none had the outsider-art purity of Ed Wood. In recent years, however, cheap digital cameras, editing software such as Final Cut Pro and easy-entry online distribution networks have enabled a new wave of backyard filmmakers not only to make remarkably terrible movies but to find an audience for them. Perhaps the most notorious contemporary contender for Ed Wood’s crown is Tommy Wiseau, the actor/ writer/director of the hilariously inexpert 2003 melodrama The Room. First championed by Los Angeles comedians intrigued by a long-running billboard for the film featuring a disquieting photo of Wiseau’s heavy-lidded face, The Room has since become a midnight-movie favourite across North America. Its appeal is undeniable. For one thing, Wiseau shares Ed Wood’s talent for crafting awkward dialogue and clumsy bits of physical business (particularly amusing is the way Wiseau’s male characters casually throw a football around whenever they get together, no matter how cramped their surroundings might be). But The Room’s real magic is the way its overheated story, in which Wiseau’s pure-hearted, loving hero is cruelly betrayed by the woman he adores, emerges so clearly as a self-serving, barely disguised retelling of some betrayal Wiseau himself experienced in the past. Wiseau has an air of shady, Eurotrash thuggishness about him that makes him a less appealing figure than an eternal innocent like Wood; nevertheless, Wiseau’s willingness to put himself at the centre of his own film and bare his emotions so fearlessly does seem like an act of artistic heroism.



Ro 12 97

EVERYONE INVOLVED WITH MOVIES LIKE SHARKNADO IS “IN ON THE joke.” Indeed, the joke is so broad and obvious that even Tara Reid understands it. That’s what makes filmmakers like Wiseau special: they are deeply out of the joke—even Wiseau’s after-the-fact decision to advertise The Room as “a quirky new comedy,” as if he meant it to be funny all along, seems distinctly tone-deaf to what audiences find amusing about it. To produce a film like The Room, so many things have to go wrong during a single production and a staggering number of bad artistic decisions have to be made in quick succession. Film critic Nathan Rabin calls these films “shitty miracles.” “It’s not a matter of one sorry element dragging the rest down,” he writes. “It’s every terrible component amplifying the awfulness of everything else…Everything must line up perfectly for a shitty miracle to occur.” “How did this get made?” asks the title of one of the best current podcasts devoted to bad movies. It’s all too obvious how movies like Sharknado got made—through a kind of planned-out corporate obviousness, untouched by the miraculous—but the origins of authentically bad movies like The Room, Plan Nine From Outer Space, and Peter Ibbetson remain eternally out of reach, the product of divine miscalculation. These movies are awful in the literal sense of the word: they deserve our awe, and they are beyond mockery. EB


Ed Fi


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2 Poetic exploration of historical records of the Frog Lake Massacre (1885) links past to present.

Massacre Street Paul Zits

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Novelist Todd Babiak commemorates Edmonton Public Library’s centenary with a bustling narrative and rich history.

todd BaBiaK

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Threat of book burning ignites passionate discussion about censoring, banning, and other responses to books.

Shyness needs no cure, claim the authors of thoughtful, raw, and humorous essays and poems.

Just Getting Started Edmonton Public Library’s First 100 Years, 1913–2013

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11/7/13 2:57:38 2013-11-22 4:07PM PM


One Beach, Two Bridges A

woman crouches on a beach in Ballyconneely, Connemara, collecting seaweed left by the tide. Occasionally, she looks up and stares out to sea. It is the 1940s, and on the west coast of Ireland my grandmother is a young widow harvesting dillisk to feed her six children up on the hill. With the haul of winkles she has picked off the rocks, she soon has the makings of a meal. When she returns home, she lays some seaweed over the carrots and potatoes planted in a hollow nearby. The children know to milk the cows, bring in the turf and carry water from the well. When their jobs are done, they go down to the beach and gather under the small bridge that crosses an inlet stream. The tide has been known to bring eels here and the children like to watch them wriggle, trying to catch them in their hands. The oldest child, the boy who became the man of the house when he was twelve, looks out over the Atlantic and declares, “On a fine day you can see Hy-Brasil,” the imaginary island covered in mist, visible once every seven years, never to be reached. In the realm of the non-imaginary, the remote County Galway peninsula of Ballyconneely had provided the backdrop for a number of significant events in world history. Early in the century, the future Nobel prizewinning physicist Guglielmo Marconi had chosen an area of local bogland as the location for one of his wireless telegraph stations, sending the first commercial transatlantic radio message to Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, in 1907. And in 1919, British aviators Alcock and Brown completed the first nonstop transatlantic f light, taking off from St John’s, Newfoundland, and after sixteen hours in the air, surviving a crash-landing not far from the Marconi site. All this innovation just a few miles from where my grandmother was growing up. But it was by water that she would forge her links with the new world. When the 1920s came along, her siblings were emigrating, each one taking the boat to America, and working for a year to send back the fare to the 74


next in line. My grandmother travelled to Boston and became a cook for a wealthy family, a position she held for several years, until her parents needed help back in Ireland, and, as their only unmarried daughter, she was called home. Today, as I walk towards the beach, there is a second bridge, hidden in long grass and constructed around a small concrete tunnel that allows golfers to pass underneath. This is the bridge that brings you down onto the wide expanse of sand, to be blasted by sea air as you make your way along the shore. As someone who grew up on a housing estate in England, I recall my childhood wonder when I realized that my mother had always had the ocean in her back yard. Only recently did it occur to me that I have never known what this place is called. Looking on a map I find Trá Mhóir, or “big beach” in Irish, but those who know it describe it as the strand at Silverhill. I have been coming here for many years. As an adult, I can see that for all its natural beauty, this was a hard, unsheltered place to make a life. And make a life is what my grandmother did, by being resourceful, by not looking back. She lived until I was twelve years old, spending her final years with us in England and with my aunt’s family in Scotland, and we grandchildren got to enjoy the woman whose soft face and gentle voice belied the many difficulties she had faced in her time. I never saw her on her beach. She did not swim, and back in the days when we were paddling and picnicking, and writing our names in the sand, she would be up at the house in her navy apron, baking apple cake, kneading soda bread, turning sausages on a pan. I wonder if she ever came down from the hill solely to look across the water, thinking of her past that had once been her future. Standing on the bridge with my back to the grass, I see what she would have seen: dark grey rocks huddling in the sand, a sky threatening rain, the sea bashing against the headland. And then suddenly, fleetingly, the moment when the sun comes out, throwing shadows over the ground. EB


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