Sex, Violence and Ugly Portuguese Men

You knew it was coming.  These experiments in form we’ve been toiling away at here for these three years, of not caring a hoot for political content when the form is so effed up, would have to erode the form of the essay itself at some point.  We’re poets and streetfighters, not content with the poets’ basement.  As I write that line Sebastian—it’s his fifteenth birthday today, eighteen February—waves a knife from the second story window at me.  “Catch,” he says.  Knifeless, he’s off to skateboard in the subway and otherwise unwisely engage the attention of magistrates.

Seen clearly, the blade of the falling knife would present no danger.  Unthrown, it lurks, menaces.

Some street aphorisms, then (the “then” implying a transition that isn’t really there), plus ground-level philosophy and other bits with inappropriate transitions, gathered from the hourglass continent:

On dualism:

Your cat’s the best teacher on dualism.  As you approach, the cat divides you into feet and head, two separate creatures upon each of which in turn she casts a suspicious eye.  Your divided subjectivity is her chief topic when you are five feet away.  Get closer, and she forgets: you become to her merely a set of feet.

On living in a Portuguese neighborhood:

The successful Azorean immigrant bergmafia of Toronto are humorless men who judge you on one question, whether your clothes and deportment suggest that you have a job.  How many times have I nearly been struck by these men in their stolid little American sedans, only to have them grump at me, “get a job!”  Having settled the question of my employability to their own satisfaction, they are able to restore me to my place in the sensorium as a bit of unpleasant background fluff, and off they drive the eighth of a mile to the Nova Era for coffee and football and pastries and newspaper, the latter two the consistency of Wonder Bread, and to grunt to each other in the only one of the half-dozen romance languages that is incomprehensible to anyone else.  It was presumably for newspaper readers of this ilk that police cars were left burning by the police themselves during the Toronto G20 to fuel the spectacle of solidarity between the ruling class and its non-ruling-class supporters, who cannot even be counted on to work or think in their own class interests.  Burning police car—someone needs to get a job!  Fire in street—someone needs to get a job!  It is because of men like these that conspiracies of world domination are so unnecessary.  They live to be dominated, to be employed in someone else’s racket.  One day I’ll have my revenge—I’ll learn Portuguese.  Then they’ll be sorry.

On cultural capital:

All America City—apparently the award goes for bad grammar.

On her:

A pole on the subway, this woman, the jostling energy of the car.

Five on the system:

* Camel plus straw:  A driver not using her turn signal, the insult added to a systemic injury.

* People like my American friend David in London who tell me I’m narcissistic mean that I’m too confident for my level of cultural capital.  If I’d caved in and done what I was supposed to all my life—stayed within the essay form with its introduction, body, and conclusion, kept buffing my shiny little credentials from the system, treated seriously the notion of the public intellectual and of my gifts as a communicator, he wouldn’t object to my confidence level.  Fuck him.

* Caveat elector—beware of electoral politics.

* I’ve had readers tell me that I’m responsible for bad stuff that happens in voteville because I don’t vote.  People who say such things would have a hard sell trying to apply their premise to any other club (am I responsible for what the Playboy Club does?  For the Aquarium Club?  Halikarnas?), but Westerners are supremely confident that voteville is the default setting for the human condition, so not participating in voteville is somehow construed as participating badly.  It’s part of the Western habit of arrogating to oneself the dispensation of all worldly good.  Bending the knee to voteville, agreeing to spend your cultural capital in tribute to it, is the basic entry fee for respected journalism and academic advancement.

* On fighting back with commensurate levels of force:

If on the 99,999th time of cheekturning and getting suckled on tit rife with Nevada nuclear blow, getting kicked, groped, tasered, fucked up the ass, voted on, forced to confess, smoked out, thrown into cages to be gang-raped, having your community’s water poisoned, its land genefucked, your firstborn hunted down in your neighborhood by cavalry, your youngest child attacked by soldiers from the provinces who are in it for a laugh and some silver to put an addition on their cottages, your nephew killed by a Crown Victoria, your impeccably non-violent friends rounded up before the G20 and forced to pay $100,000 in legal fees, your friends’ nephews sent home in body bags, if, if, if, and you suddenly have a vision of hitting back just as hard or harder, would you admit it, even to yourself?

DAVID Ker THOMSON lives on the eastern edge of the Carolinian forest zone ninety meters above sea level at Latitude 43 N, 79 W along a large lake and on a broad south-facing plateau riven by numerous creek valleys and ravines which collectively have retained for common use one of the plateau’s Huron names meaning “fishing weir” or “white people think this is a fishing weir.”  Stay tuned for next week’s “The Plunder of South America: A Conversation with Andrés Dimitriu.” He can be reached at: dave dot thomson at utoronto dot ca


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