Guns don’t kill people. Bullets do. When will we ever learn?
“It’s important to keep in mind,” I tell Liam, “that people don’t kill guns.”
“No it isn’t,” says Liam.
"Well, it certainly makes you think."
“No it doesn’t,” Liam says over my shoulder.
I’m working myself up to writing something important, here on the west side, here in the Occident Waiting to Happen, here in the GTA which supposedly stands for our great trendy area on the south coast of ’nada rather than Grand Theft Auto as all the evidence indicates, here in the poor man’s London, here in the top-dog tier of an Alpha City (who knew that someone besides Starbucks was ranking cities on our willingness to throw bucks around, let alone on our equivalence with Mumbai and Buenos Aires?), here in the ugly but loveable snub-nosed pug of a town formerly known as The Good, here in the dapple and snow-shimmer of the urban forest with its restless natives, here in the sticks-and-bricks.
Here, in short, along the Humber.
I’m reviewing my student attendance lists, getting ready for grading. “Hu,” I say, throwing Liam a bone. “What?” he says, but I don’t fall for it. “Right?” he prods, to try and get a Wong out of me. He’s already gotten two Wongs out of an earlier list, but we both know what they’re not making.
Toronto’s got that, at least, the fact that the whole world lives here so you don’t need to go anywhere else to get the multicultural experience. Liam and I can make fun of any nationality in the comfort and convenience of our own home. For that matter, we can throw snowballs at Portuguese drivers without leaving the confines of our front yard. Try doing that in Lisbon.
Nothing like a good splat with a slushball onto the side of the van of some self-satisfied worker drone who might have told me last week to get a job.
“Makes ’em think,” I tell the lad.
“No it doesn’t,” Liam says, faithful sidekick to the end.
These guys come storming out of their vans and it’s just Liam and me standing there looking innocent and pointing at each other. “He did it,” we say.
The other day I pelted the hell out of my friend Dave, who was driving by in his Mazda like he owned the joint, or like he’s the only guy named Dave. His car is easy to spot, because it’s got one of those Fool or Thule racks on it or whatever. I plastered it so thoroughly his windshield wipers couldn’t keep up, then I started in on the body of the car when he was stuck at the stop sign. By this point he’s on IFR and wouldn’t know VFR if it hit him in the head, which is a joke only pilots will understand but it’s pretty good. Well I must have transferred twenty pounds of snow from the snow bank to his car before I realized the guy in it wasn’t Dave. Or at least not that Dave.
You’d be surprised how many people will let you ball them up good if you ask. “Mind if I throw a bunch of snowballs at your car?” Judging by what I can see behind the smoked glass, they’ll usually solemnly agree, if their English is good. If not, well, it’s not my fault, is it? What were they thinking?
“Sebastian,” I say to the older kid in the present tense a couple of days ago. This Sebastian of ours is, by some trick of ontology, apparently the same person as that baby I was carrying around on my arm fourteen years ago. “I’ve got your next short.”
Sebastian won a film award from the Toronto Film Festival when he was eleven. I give him my pitch. “We’ll go to the corner and you get the camera rolling and I’ll throw snowballs at every car and we’ll see what happens.” He treats my pitch pitch with dignified silence and retreats to the cyber cutting room, where pieces of virtual celluloid lie all over his virtual floor. There is an implied creak and a bang as he slams the virtual door behind him.
The author takes time out from carfighting in NYC, December 26.
The slam bam reminds me: they’ve had that Super Bowl, have you heard this? I don’t get out much, so I’ll tell you what I know. The Super Bowl turns out not to be a place where small-town America gathers on a Friday night to do an activity with plastic pins and bakelite balls, but something much more violent. A group of grown men get together in a stadium, apparently, and watch Christina Aguilera do things with the national anthem.
It makes you think, doesn’t it?
“No it doesn’t,” says Liam.
Sebastian comes home as I write that and tells me he has yet another detention. He looms several inches over the six-foot mark we cut for him a couple of years ago in the kitchen entranceway.
“Sexology,” he says. His teacher says he’s been engaged in sexology. We look up the word, then he tells me the story. There weren’t enough chairs and he let a girl sit on his leg while they were doing computers, and his teacher spluttered the first thing that came to the teacher’s mind, which turned out to be “sexology.” Great, now the teachers are free associating in lieu of teaching. Sebastian points at his leg, like it’s the chair.
“That’s not a chair,” I say, looking along the expanse of thigh. “That’s a sofa.” Probably could have fit three girls in there in a pinch.
This sense of it can’t be happening reminds me of my Belgian poet’s tenure on the curriculum committee of the school in Lesser Foggy Bottom, our old village in England. [national identity of poet and name of village altered very slightly to preserve the anonymity of my sources] She writes that they have to review policies and this week it’s “Collective Worship.” Sounds Stalinist, but no, it turns out to be simply enforced groupthink for the state religion. My poet asks the group if perhaps the word “reflection” mightn’t strike a more inclusive tone than “worship.” Well, the term “worship” turns out to be statutory, like what goes with the word rape in America. Statutory. Mandated. Worship’s a required field. Jesus—can you believe it? You have to get a special permit to not worship. Telling me about it, my poet’s all over the way the English, as she says, muddle up words like that statutory: “STAtchtry.” Queasy, is what my poet tells me she gets, trying on pronunciations. February: “FEBbrewery.” I say, rather.
With all that collective worship going on, leftists have their work cut out for them. The job of iconoclasts used to be to mess with statuary, now apparently it’s to eff up the statutory.
It’s the moral imperative of every good person to trifle—deploying a minimalist boo, titter, or hiss, if not an outright maximalist stiff-armed salute—with the caterwaul of doggerel in the rockets’-red-glare murder chants of empire worship. But sometimes the empire’s stooges might hoist their own petard, might throw a “twilight” in for America instead of a “gallant.” Talk about the political unconscious. The twilight of America in the mouths of babes.
So who knew that that’s where we’d end up, remembering that what kills songs isn’t whatever we thought it was. People do.
Gotta get to that grading now. I check my pile. Hu’s on first.
DAVID Ker THOMSON reports from the Humber, Garrison Creek, and Dufferin Grove watersheds. dave dot thomson at utoronto dot ca