Andrew Snowdon

Archive for November, 2009|Monthly archive page

Montreal, land of the Electric Asses

In Uncategorized on Friday 13 November 2009 at 16:00

Surprise! I’m on my way to Montréal.

This should only come as a surprise for people who are aware of my legendarily bad travel habits.

Montréal, being very close to Ottawa, is a favourite spur-of-the-moment destination for our city’s denizens. One particular anecdote always comes to mind whenever I think of making a weekend trip to Montréal. A friend (who shall remain nameless) told us this story, possibly the night Princess Diana died.

We were at an early Food Not Bombs punk concert in Vincent Massey Park, and my friend had an old knapsack with him. I don’t recall how the subject came up, exactly, but he started to tell us about his first trip to Montréal:

One night, he went to a party. The party was a success, and he woke up on the couch surrounded by stale cigar smoke, sleeping partygoers, and pizza boxes, craving food.

Craving, specifically, a Montréal smoked meat sandwich.

Despite having never been to Montréal, he went straight to the Greyhound station and bought a ticket for the first bus there, with only the knapsack over his shoulder.

As he was sitting on the rather empty bus, a very beautiful girl sat down next to him and, before long, took out a bag of pot and started rolling a joint. She went back to the bathroom to smoke it, and when she came back she indicated he should follow suit. He did, and the rest of the trip passed uneventfully. They parted ways upon arriving in Montréal.

He looked up a friend whose apartment he could stay in, and they spent the next few weeks making a solid block of Ecstasy.

No, really, that’s what they did.

It measured about six inches by six inches by a foot.

Upon completion, they realized that they didn’t know anyone in Montréal to whom they could sell such a large quantity of illicit drugs. So they put the block into my friend’s knapsack, and would do the circuit of the bars and clubs downtown, offering licks of the block for ten dollars.

After the block was done, he came home to Ottawa.

Besides the obvious business lesson, this story reminds me that sometimes the most interesting segments of your life start with one random act. Hence, this weekend’s trip to Montréal.

Of course, it’s extremely unlikely that I’ll be starting a clandestine drug lab in someone’s basement. I have to get back to work on Monday morning, after all.


nothing hurts

In Uncategorized on Wednesday 11 November 2009 at 18:42

[Why am I good at emo poetry? I’d like to turn out a technical manual someday instead. Oh, well.]

if you cannot love me
then hate me
or something
just please don’t feel nothing at all
i can’t bear the thought
you’d forget what we had
and the shadow i cast on your wall

though it may not be permanent
or desirable
i thought we mattered to us
for a moment
don’t say that we shouldn’t have;
i know that better than you
all the times i gave up
the times i looked at you
with disdain
with disapproval
with disappointment in my eyes

so if you’ve found someone that can love you
and not just pretend
you’re one better than me
i wish what we had wasn’t empty
how i tried to fill it
ignore what it didn’t mean
lie through my teeth
and imagine the prospect i couldn’t bear would
become somehow appealing to me

i would hate myself, wouldn’t i?

so if you cannot love me
then hate me
or something
but please don’t feel nothing
that hurts
worse than anything

Why I’m working on Remembrance Day

In Uncategorized on Tuesday 10 November 2009 at 21:28

Part of the coherent portion of the conversation at the pub this past Friday revolved around Remembrance Day. Several of the people at the table were making plans to meet up for brunch before proceeding to the War Memorial to attend the ceremony. Mostly they are self-employed; one is a healthcare worker.

By contrast, I work for a bank. Particularly, I work in a call-centre for an American bank, and although we fall under the same federal law as regards statutory holidays as the government does, our business needs to remain open. (You and I are free to define “need” differently than it is used here.) Thus, as one of the only two people who can do my job, I have a 50% chance of working on Remembrance Day, whether I like it or not.

This year, I’m working on Remembrance Day.

I’m not doing it for the extra pay (although I’m not protesting the extra pay, by any stretch of the imagination), but I’m also not doing it entirely involuntarily. I have my own personal reasons for going in to work.

When I was a kid, Remembrance Day usually centered around the theme of “Never Again.” The idea behind that campaign was that war was bad (this is apparently still news to some people), and that it should be avoided. Remembrance Day provides us a time and opportunity to remember why this is. War is atrocious. People die. Lives are changed forever. Cultures are wiped out.

That was before 1989 and the (first recent) war in Iraq. That was followed by what William Jefferson Clinton, with a straight face in a serious voice, called “the world’s first war fought on ethical grounds,” the war in Bosnia, and…

Our planet is at war. It’s always at war. I invite you to point out to me an era in history when our planet has not been at war with itself, somewhere.

The other gentleman who shares my job is about seven years my senior, though his sunny disposition and passionate emotion would convince you otherwise. He’s very proud of his son, and has nothing but love for his wife (a poet and former journalist). He regularly goes on break to visit his father, who works at a restaurant in the mall food court.

By the time he was my age, he was already a war veteran.

He doesn’t talk much about his time in the military; just the occasional jovial story about making something interesting explode. It wasn’t a war our country was involved in, but it was a long and brutal war that took place close to civilian population. He and I are close enough that I know he was seriously injured by enemy fire.

If you look in his eyes, you see the unmistakeable look of a man who’s had to kill someone. Everyone I’ve met who’s killed someone at war has had that look; they’ve all also had an incredible appreciation for the sheer joy of life. It’s inspiring, and at the same time heart-rending.

It’s none of my business whether he goes to any ceremony on Remembrance Day morning. I’d be happy if he just spent the day with his family. He deserves to.

Think of all the people who didn’t get to. Who won’t get to.

That’s what you’re remembering for.

And that’s why I’m going to work tomorrow, instead of him.

Recommended reading for Remembrance Day:
In Flanders’ Fields
Ypres: 1915

Unexpected Company

In Uncategorized on Monday 9 November 2009 at 22:57

That night after I had arrived home from work, I had barely hung up my coat when there was a loud knock at the door. The hair on my neck stood on end; an unannounced knock at the door could only be my superintendent from downstairs, and I was afraid he would see the soaked towels at the base of the radiator in my bedroom. I moved to quietly shut the bedroom door.

“Coming,” I shouted. Not that I had to shout very loud. The walls and door of my apartment are so thin I can hear the next-door neighbour’s MSN Messenger alerts clearly at night, even with music on.

I pressed my face against the door to look through the peephole. It wasn’t the super at all. Outside my door were two men; one dressed in dark clothing leaning against the wall, and one dressed in a gaudy linen suit standing in the middle of the hallway. The tension in my neck turned to cold sweat and a hollow gnawing in my stomach. I raced quickly through the list of people I might owe money as I unlocked the door and opened it.

“Are you–” started the man in the suit.

“Your door number doesn’t work,” said the man in what I could see now was a black suede jacket, faded black t-shirt, and even more faded black jeans. He pushed his way past me and stood in the middle of the room with his hands on his hips. “It says your number’s out of service.” I motioned for his partner to come in and closed the door.

“Yes, well,” I said, “I don’t have a land line, and I guess they can’t hook it up to my cellphone.” He was looking at the ceiling intently, then around some still unpacked boxes of my things on the living room floor. It took him a full minute to turn to look at me, and even then I couldn’t see where his eyes were looking, behind his opaque black sunglasses.

“No couch?” he asked, easing himself into the one white wooden chair I had cleared off; the rest were covered in books and other items I had yet to find a place for. I wrung my hands together, and turned to look at the other man, but he waved his hand with a slight bow of his head.

“Oh,” I said, ‘I wasn’t offering… I mean who are you?” Catching myself running my hands through my hair, I leaned back against the wall behind me. The man with the sunglasses laughed, and leaned forward.

“You ought to have known someone was going to come talk to you eventually. Now be a dear, and get us each a beer.” He motioned towards the kitchen. I had no intention of moving.

“You’re kidding. Who are you?” I asked again, “I thought you were the superintendent…” My back was cold and I could feel myself beginning to shake.

The man sitting on a chair, casting a pall on my living room floor, became suddenly still and stiff-looking. I couldn’t see his eyes, but I knew they were looking through me.

“Beer. Get us a fucking beer. You have a fridge full of Labatt 50, old man,” he grinned and spat these words, “and it’s about time you shared.” My eyes darted over to the gentleman in the suit.

“It’s alright,” he said, in a soft, almost childlike, voice that made me warm to him instantly, “I won’t have anything. But you two feel free.” My heart sank, and I was a little perturbed at someone giving me permission to have a beer in my own home.

I backed into the kitchen, opened the fridge, pulled out two bottles, closed the door, and pried off the bottlecaps, all without taking my eyes off of the black stain of a man sitting in my living room, and his ethereal, equally creepy, companion.

When someone enters your home unexpectedly, your mind goes instantly through your possessions, naming and locating each and every potential bludgeon or sharp object:

Cleaver: kitchen
Cane: umbrella stand
Baseball bat: windowsill by the head of my bed

I came out of the kitchen and handed one of the bottles to the dark man in the chair. He immediately relaxed and smiled. Not at me, mind you; he just smiled. I went to stand by the bedroom door.

“No,” came the raspy voice from the chair, “have a seat. We’re going to be a while.” I let a deep breath out through my teeth, then walked over to the chair at my desk and sat down. I stared at the man in the chair, still wearing his sunglasses, as I sipped my beer, but it was the man in the suit who spoke next.

“You’re probably wondering,” he said, “who we are and why we’re here.” I looked at him incredulously.

“Yes,” I said, slowly, “I already asked that. Are you working from a script?” Realizing what I’d just said, I put the bottle back up to my lips. The man in black snickered, and his companion shot him a disapproving glance before he started speaking again.

“We’re here to talk to you about a message you should have received a long time ago.” I winced. God-botherers, I thought.

“No,” said the man in black, waving his finger, “he came for that. I came along because he said there’d be beer in it.” He raised his bottle. I nodded my head in agreement. It took me a few seconds to realize the other man was speaking again.

“…causing a bit of concern. You’re not an idiot, and you ought to know better. In fact,” he said, “you yourself wrote a scathing admonition of such conduct not six months ago!” At this last, he had come forward to lean on the desk in front of me and I could see the weird grey-pink of his irises as his gaze flicked back and forth between my eyes. What was he talking about? It couldn’t be the drinking. I took another sip of my beer, leaning back so as not to hit his chin with the end of my bottle. He sighed, rolled his eyes, and continued.

to be continued…

An open letter to an imaginary ex

In Uncategorized on Monday 9 November 2009 at 5:29

Note: You probably shouldn’t read this if you know me personally.

I apologize in advance for this. When I get down like I am now, the only way to fix it is to write how I feel at the moment. As soon as I write it and send it out into the world, the feeling changes. It’s infuriating.

Usually I send a private, inebriated e-mail in the dead of the night to the person in question. They’re rarely well-received. I doubt this would be, and take comfort in the idea that nobody can really be certain who I may or may not be talking about. I was smart enough not to read the last thing written to/about me on the Internet, and she’s smarter than I am, so I’m banking on that.

Since nobody reads this blog (such as it is) anyway, it’s kind of like sending and not sending an e-mail, at the same time.

Think, for a moment, of how the person on the other end feels about receiving a letter like this, especially when they don’t feel the same way. It’s unwelcome. It’s uncomfortable and awkward. It has the opposite to any intended positive effect. It defeats its own purpose.

Yet it’s the only thing that helps.

Dear imaginary ex,

I was in bed just now, and I couldn’t sleep.

You know, the last time I had a really good night’s sleep was next to you. In fact, those nights were the times in my life I have slept best. I never needed anything other than you to fall asleep, those nights.

Early on in our relationship, it was clear that things wouldn’t work out because of what you wanted from life, and the fact that I’d made choices that made my contribution to that pretty much impossible.

I don’t know if I ever told you how much that bothered me, every day. I’m pretty sure I didn’t. Yes, when I made my choices I was making them for reasons I believed in, and now that we’re quite thoroughly over with no chance of reconciliation, I do not regret them. But because of that, I stopped looking at you with just love in my eyes; it became love and an apology. Then anxiety set in, hard.

By now, being nearly thirty, I ought to know myself well enough to recognize when I’m depressed, and why, and that I always react to depression with some combination of alcohol and insanity. Maybe I just wanted the relationship to end so I didn’t have to admit that I would have done what was necessary to change, but was too scared. Hence the self-sabotage.

I know, rationally, that it wouldn’t have worked out. Or at least I’ve convinced myself so.

You’re lucky: your life will work out the way you wanted it. You were worried that you would never find someone that you could be with forever, and who would love you forever. Yet I don’t see how you can avoid it. I would find it hard not to love you, unconditionally. I know; I’ve tried to stop, and it didn’t work.

Don’t get the impression that I’m thinking about you all the time (although I easily could) or that I’m stuck in some melancholy state; not that that would matter to you anymore, granted. I’ve found things to do, and other people to care about. So have you, I hope. You have your life, which I view with a bit of envy even though I wouldn’t choose that path myself, and I have mine, whatever form it may take at the moment.

Still, I miss our conversations. I truly do.

It was a wonderful time together.

Well, mostly.

Take care. I miss you, and I am content with that.


And there that is. Suddenly, magically, it’s not there anymore. Rather, it is, but the pain is gone. It’s a form of catharsis.

Now I can go back to bed.

A Prologue to Nothing in Particular

In Uncategorized on Friday 6 November 2009 at 22:57

There’s a lineup at the Beer Store on Rideau Street every Friday night after 9:00 pm that stretches out through the automatic door onto the sidewalk.

Not that I’m there that often, but one notices these things.

As I was standing in line waiting to purchase twelve bottles of Labatt 50 (an acquired taste; I acquired the taste from someone I consider to have remarkably good taste, so I make no apology), I heard someone repeating a familiar syllable.

“Pabst… Pabst…” A tall, unshaven young man (my lower back and grey hair cry out “boy”, but I do not listen) with dark hair, a dark jacket and dark but faded jeans was searching for the price of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

“You’re looking for Pabst?” I offered, “It’s over there.” I jerked my thumb to indicate the sign on the opposite wall that said DISCOUNT BRANDS. He started to walk over.

“But they do have it?” he asked. I nodded.

“They sure do.” I looked at his girlfriend and tried to guess their age. Twenty? Not more than twenty-three, surely. They didn’t look like the seasoned hipster couple that ought to be buying Pabst Blue Ribbon at closing time on a Friday night. They were too bright-eyed, too talkative. Too happy. Like a chipmunk and a squirrel frolicking on the forest floor.

I walked out onto cold, windy Rideau Street, up to King Edward and turned north. Some disheveled figure was trying to decide if some building’s steps were a good place to make a bed for the night. I passed by, adjusting my grip on the 12-pack that was keeping my hand warm. You can’t refrigerate beer so that it’s colder than an Ottawa night.

There’s not one of these cold Ottawa nights goes by that I don’t ask myself the same question: How did I get here?


How the hell did I get here, anyway?