Ican disarm almost any big man in under fifteen seconds. I’ll temper the claim by pointing out that this is the place they call Canada, so how hard can it be, right?
If you get one of these missives of mine from the hospital, you’ll know there’s an exception to every rule, but so far so good.
I’ve been working the streets of cities for a tad over thirty-five years. In my skinny days, I carried a Bible and num-chucks, which isn’t as contradictory as it sounds. In my weightlifting years, I developed techniques for running on top of cars stuck in traffic. Now in the days of a general slackening, I use my tongue. I can’t count on protection from the old semitic storm god anymore, nor his hippie son, though I have always appreciated what the latter did to the moneychangers in the temple, and his general kickass attitude.
I can look younger than I am, but in the current year of planned obsolescence the visible epidermal layer below my jaw has lost some elasticity, and I notice that the skin isn’t following every contour of the subcutaneous flesh. The skin is taking shortcuts from point to point, like freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. I’ll soon look like a gecko. Madonna, Michael Jackson, and I were all born in the same month, so the race is on. Flesh is loosening from the bone.
The years have loosened my tongue, as well. I’ll select some dickhead driver from the general tumult of fools swerving erratically amongst schoolchildren, for example, and saunter in front of their truck. His or her truck, but frankly I generally stay away from the women. Too dangerous.
Let’s say I pick some guy, as I did yesterday, who didn’t use his turn signal.
“You’re ugly,” I might tell him, which isn’t strictly apropos of his driving technique.
“You deaf?” I might say, as I did say yesterday. “Your turn signal’s broken.”
“What? No it’s not. Look, there. See?”
The jaws of my Socratic trap are springing shut in a nearly audible manner. I’m turning to the kids with a grin. “Now what do we say to the nice man if his turn signal works, but wasn’t going blink blink blink when it was needed?” There’s a syllogism here. But the kids have fled around the corner and are peeking out from there. At least they were during yesterday’s encounter. When the man gets out of the truck, this or any man, his body isn’t compressed and he looks a lot bigger. It’s the fight or flight moment.
I’ve always said, if it’s danger, take a step towards it. Which is how I almost got hit by that stepvan last year at Oz and Dewson. I walk briskly towards this guy, sticking my right hand out with the palm facing to the left—an ancient disarming technique. “Young man,” I then say sternly, which disorients them in eighty percent of cases. I smile like I’m selling Bibles in a trailer park—instincts die hard—but instead of reaching for the door handle of their double-wide to let myself in, I grab the guy’s right hand and pump it like it’s a thirty-aught six. Offers of beer follow. Strike this or any man firmly on the back several times with the flat of the hand while renewing offers of beer, and the disarming is complete. Bundle him back in the truck, and send him off. Every so often I even get a new friend this way.
Liam, ten if he’s a day, has a home-made restraining order on me within two blocks of his school. But I nabbed the guy in the F250 yesterday right on the perimeter. Liam usually ignores me during my capers, though he insists that I should always walk home with him. But this time he and his friend were watching intently from their hiding place, and afterwards they came out marveling, “how do you do that?” They said it together, so I wasn’t sure if they’d really said it.
“Did you ask ‘how’ or ‘why’?” I said, suspicious.
“How,” they said together again, as much of a compliment as you’re likely to get from ten-year-olds. As the good book says, train them up when they are young, and when they are old they will not depart from it.
* * *
So, my dear readers who have been missing me, I’m back. What have you all been up to? Hope you’re both well. And yes, I’ve been getting those letters from the other quarter of a million of you. I’ll deal with you at the appointed hour.
I’ve been to and fro upon the earth, as the devil said to the storm god.
Up and down the alley, for example, nabbing Concord grapes, which are now gone. Where does the time go? Maple out front starting to flame. I know the rap by now.
Frankly, we’ve been nursing our wounds from the beginning of the summer, when a bunch of world “leaders” came to our town and as many troops as demonstrators fought it out in the street.
Fighting in this case meant, or means [universal present continuous tense], we consent to go out into the street and get beaten up by brownshirts from distant provinces who’ve always hated our city. They get time and a half, we get time.
I guess the idea is they’ll be impressed by how Ghandian we are and will reconsider their wicked ways, drop their truncheons, peel off their puffmail, and join our side.
Let me know when that happens. I get first dibs on the puffmail.
In the meantime, we’re not waiting for the system to notice us or to throw a few tokens our way. Fact is, we’re not on the rez. You rez cyclists, for example, with your prissy little righteous protocols, playing by the rules, with your gratefulness to have bike lanes (thank-you Massa, we is ever so grateful), your overall complicity with the system, you’re at least as dangerous as the Hummers. You’re keeping the whole system on top of us, aren’t you? You settle for your dangerous little one-percent strip-rez and make sure the rest of the city’s slutted out to cars. You rez voters, either acclaiming some predator executive to run the show because he’s a trifle blacker or smoother than some other brute, or voting for “green” parties whose primary instinct is gratitude for being allowed to play with the big brutes as long as the greens agree not to hold any actual power—you’re at least as dangerous as the conservatives, aren’t you?
“All you want is another master,” the mystic Jacques Lacan is reputed to have said to a group of students, “and you’ll get it.”
Direct action’s the reality one wakes up to after having been date-raped by good intentions.
The empire thinks that if you go out into the world and you kill and intimidate the locals, you’ll subdue them. But it always just pisses the locals off. The empire seems impregnable, but the Americans lose every single war they start. The summer began with having my children attacked in the streets when the American “leader” showed up, then hunted down by infantry and cavalry. Take a guess about whether this subdued me at the time. I’ve had a summer to brood on it. Take a guess about whether I’ve become more Gandhian as I’ve mulled it over. Gandhi’s legacy was to pass a nation-state from one set of masters to another, leaving the notion of masters untouched.
But there are at least three billion of us who don’t ever vote. Who didn’t fall for the franchise, the give-away, the rez mentality. And there’s a certain percentage of you on the rez, still voting, still telling the system it’s important, still paying tribute, who are getting pretty close to getting off the rez, shutting down the machinery of reassurance. Pretty damn close to packing it in. Well?
* * *
Don’t touch that dial. I’ve got plenty of what Brian McKenna might call muckraking anthropology coming up. All information brokered here is guaranteed street-tested. I’ve got perps like Peter Munk, the billionaire gold-digger and University of Toronto philanthropist, in my sights. An interview with Prof. Andres Dimitriu, the Argentine environmentalist, is in the editing room. And as always, plenty of action from ground level.
Summer’s over. There’s a storm on the horizon. But I’m feeling boisterous again.
DAVID KER THOMSON lives in the city of T’onto in the province of ’rio in the country of ’nada. Dave.firstname.lastname@example.org