Friday, October 31, 2008

What Seamus O'Regan Said At Ben Mulroney's Wedding; Margaret Atwood's Advice To Young Brides

Ben Mulroney was married last night; he wed Jessica Brownstein in a Montreal ceremony that was blessed by both priest and rabbi. Brownstein is a designer, and Mulroney is the Canadian Ryan Seacrest. They're a lovely couple.

Asked what he thought of his new wife, Ben said, "If I were only allowed to date one Jewish girl, she'd be the one. Although Sandy Rinaldo's a close second."

Both Mulroney and Brownstein grew up in the same Westmount neighbourhood. As teenagers they met in a high school class on how to convince people that you didn't have it so easy growing up. "Jessica impressed me right away," Mulroney said. "She told me that her father had told her that she'd have to work for everything she had. It was so convincing. She told me that her father was deducting GST from her allowance. 'So what?' I said, 'it's only a couple cents.' 'I don't charge him for my acting classes,' she said. 'Why would you charge him for your acting classes?' 'Oh, so you want me actually to love him, too.'"

Unlike many other people, I don't have a problem with Mulroney. I generally like men who use vaseline on their hair.

Seamus O'Regan spoke at the wedding, and I want to focus on him for a minute. Seamus is, of course, hosting the 2008 Giller Awards, and I've been speculating as to the quality of his material. Last year he was funny. He really was. You don't hear too many emcees telling riddles anymore.

I finally found a source who told me that Trevor Boris was writing O'Regan's jokes. (Last year, as I said, O'Regan did his own stuff.) My source said, "Obviously, Rawi Hage's teeth will not be an issue."

But two or three potential quips did leak out, and I'll post those in the coming days. Now let's listen in on O'Regan--Mulroney's best man--as he ascends the dais, taking the microphone from Mr. Brownstein's trembling hands.

O'Regan: "I've known Ben for four years. I met him on Canada AM. Ben, I'm so happy for you. Jessica, you too. You make a beautiful couple. I'm sorry that Jeff Hutcheson couldn't be here tonight, but just didn't have enough money--they wouldn't let him in. Say hello when you leave, he's just sitting on the steps. Jeff is the one who introduced me to Ben. He said, 'I want you to meet someone new; someone great who really deserves his job. He's right there, behind Ben Mulroney.' But I'm just kidding. Ben's been terrific at everything he's done. Would Canadian Idol be where it is without Ben's efforts? Would Idol winners be playing the venues they're playing without Ben's help? Carnival doesn't just hire anyone.

"And Jewsica--I mean Jessica. What a match. Ben, your father must be thrilled. What a second seder you're gonna have. I know religion isn't that important for Jessica. She's reformed, and Ben isn't too observant, either. They're going to hang a mezuzeh on every doorframe, but it'll be hanging on a cross.

"Ben and Jessica, I wish you every happiness. I'll recount to you a few words from the legend Margaret Atwood. These are words of advice to any young couple who desire to make it work. "Seamus," she said. "Seamus, baby. When getting married, you have to realize that you've entered into a compromise. If your husband doesn't like cold pussy, you've just got to give up the canoe."

"Words to live by. Ben, Jessica: l'chaim."

Atwood, you win again.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

If You Can't Be Funny, Be Seamus O'Regan: The 2008 Giller Finalists Are Introduced; Later, I'll Roast Them

The 2008 Giller finalists were announced about three weeks ago, and since then I've been writing furiously, trying to find that one joke that'll communicate just how I feel about these people and their books.

I was at Chapters--one of two left in the city--looking for Marina Endicott's Good to a Fault, and one of the floor walkers told me they'd sold out of 'em.

"You're sold out?" I said, a little angry that I'd circumnavigated the globe to find this World's Biggest Bookstore, and they were going to send me home with a souvenir plastic bag.

"Well," the guy said, "yeah. We did." A pause while he thought. "The demand was amazing, you know--we got the copy from the publisher, and two weeks later it was gone."

"Will you stock more?"

"Why? She only has one mother."

I picked it up at a used book store, paying 85% of the cover price for what turned out to be a good read.

Now I've read all of the '08 Giller finalists. I'm one of two persons in the entire country that can claim that distinction. The other's the guy who cleans out the TTC cars after they come in at the end of the night. And then only because he breezes through Metro.

Do I look forward to the Giller ceremony? Well, this year found me without an invitation. I was there last year, sitting yards away from Margaret Atwood, trying desperately to run for a first down.

I just sat there, balling up bread, rolling the balls between my thumb and forefinger, throwing the missiles at her. "I'm trying to knock off the burdocks."

Again I felt estranged as the only Jew in the place not writing a cheque. When Neil Smith asked me if I knew where he could find a good dradle I almost punched him in the mouth. But he moved, and I got his shoulder.

"Watch out!" he screamed, grabbing his lapel. "Sears won't take this back if it's dented."

My date decided to tell an old Jack E. Leonard joke, walking up to Alice Munro, introducing herself. "There's Alice Munro," she told me as we walked in. "She came up here from down there to be with us tonight." And walking up to Alice: "Hi, Alice, how are you? The ground cold this morning? Gee, we better get this started soon--the sun's gonna rise."

The other Giller finalists are: Joseph Boyden for Through Black Spruce, Anthony De Sa for Barnacle Love, Rawi Hage for Cockroach, and Mary Swan for The Boys in the Trees. I like the women this year. The nude calendars'll sell well at Shoppers counters. But Boyden's already stocking up for a win: gel sales in his New Orleans Walgreens have never been higher. This thing could go all night, and he'd still be taken care of...As long as he doesn't have to dunk anything. Guess C. Gibb'll just have to sit up this time.

Seamus O'Regan will host. And that's really a shame. It's not just that the man can't deliver a joke, but when you're leaning on "the best writers in CBC's stable," you're aiming slightly below a Norm Crosby Red Lobster ad. "Are you funny?" O'Regan asked a prospective writer.

"Sure," the writer said.

"Well, what have you done? Show me something."

"Will you accept puns?"

Last year's monologue reminded me of a speech I'd given at my brother's bar mitzvah when I was just out of Grade Ten. I was introducing the head table, and I said, "...And here's my grandmother, Zelda. The watermain burst at my grandparents' house, so today they had to come over to our place to shower. My grandmother went just before me. I never knew she was a blonde."

That got a laugh. When I say that O'Regan reminded me of myself, it was largely in the sense that he was standing up, his mouth moving. His lines were slightly better than Jack Layton's address to a group of Dominion grocery workers on the occasion of their forty-fifth shift. And now he's back again. Would it be possible to select a host who appeals less to the broader public? Even Catholics are tuning in, saying, "Jesus! Wash the corpse of Pat McCormick; get him up there."

Of course--this is Canada, and we have many Scotch-Irish personalities. Some of them think they're funny. They watch The Office. Some of them have even tried to write jokes: "'Knock, knock.' Okay, let me think...A Canadian goose. 'Who?' 'No, that's an owl.'"

I'll be following this closely.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Why Hugh Hood And I Hate Seth Rogen

Though he's been dead for about eight years, Hugh Hood and I still chat. Mostly through my Ouija board.

When I was thirteen, back when Hood was still buying subway tokens, I found The Swing in the Garden in the garbage bin outside my high school's library. "Excuse me," I said, showing the book to the librarian, "I think someone might have accidentally thrown this out."

"You want it?" she said. "Take it."

"Don't I have to sign it out?"

She shook her head, mumbling: "Just burn it when you're done."

So I took the book home, read it, and became a fan of Hood. I looked up his address in the Canadian Bookman and wrote him a letter, introducing myself and asking whether he could recommend other Canadian writers whose work I should read. My English teacher had never heard of Hood, and I needed to learn more about Canadian writing.

Hood wrote back, weeks later, telling me to "Fuck off." I sent him a prompt reply, making sure to rub both the envelope and the sheet of paper on a used condom that I'd found in the park across the street from my house.

Hood's response to the second letter was a little more favourable, urging me to come to visit him only if I was prepared first to deliver his paper route. I did, and we became instant friends.

Now I'll get to the Seth Rogen thing.

Hugh Hood hates Seth Rogen. Nine years ago I was with Hood in a Christie Street coffee shop, and we were talking about the future. Hood dabbled in palmistry and fortune telling, and considering himself a minor prophet.

"There's going to be a Jew," he told me one day, "who's fat, ugly, and stupid. Just like you, but much heavier." I was 150 pounds at the time. "He'll be around two-fifty. Maybe even three hundred. I can't stress enough the importance of his weight."

"Why?" I asked. "What does that have to do with anything?"

"Because he'll be so grotesque that no woman would ever want him."

"And you see a person like this existing in the future?"


"Wow. And, tell me this: Will we also have bread? Will there be bread in the future? Will ice still form in sub-zero weather? Can you see that in your crystal ball?"

"Fuck you," he said.

"Did you just drink my tea?"

He ignored me. "This person will be an actor. A big, fat, Jewish actor. And in his films he'll be a loser. But he'll always get the girl."

"That's Hollywood," I said. "There's a reason why Scott Fitzgerald said that it was the only place in the world where they hung toilets on the wall."

"Remember that prediction," Hugh told me. "Just remember it."

"I will."

"And the girls will be Gentiles. Every single one. And golden-haired. They'll be successful, beautiful. And, through a series of interrelated coincidences, they'll learn to love him."

"But why would they learn to love him? Why wouldn't they just find someone equally attractive, someone smart and rich, whose company they could actually enjoy?"

"That's my point!"

"Oh, I see: This loser'll give hope to all the other average guys out there who will, in all likelihood, meet and marry A-list actresses."


"And all they'll have to do is find said actresses, stalk them, stick around long enough, and everything'll work out in the end."

"I can't see how it wouldn't."

That was Hood's prediction nine years ago. And now with the rise of Apatow and Rogen it's all come true. Superbad, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Knocked Up, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall; all Apatow-influenced, Rogen-ish vehicles that tread heavily in Who's the Boss? territory.

So, obviously, it'll just be a short period of time 'til we see an ugly, overweight, cloying, Jewish actress bag Chad Michael Murray, then encourage his love through a series of hilarious misunderstandings.


Overweight Jewess and CMM jump on a trampoline. OJ lands, causing CMM to be launched into the air, landing on OJ's head.

OJ: Oops!

CMM: No, don't worry. That happened all the time at Exeter.

Wait, let me just think of an overweight, ugly, Hollywood Jewess...Let me just think...

Well, I'm sure we can find someone in Glendale.

Rogen and Heigl. You know, Woody Allen didn't even have the balls for that. Mia Farrow was the furthest he'd go. And while she was a handsome woman, in my wide travels through adult circles I have never met anyone who's said, "I'd leave my wife for Mia Farrow." "I'd eat dinner with her; I'd take her on my boat. But that's about it."

Hugh understood Hollywood.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Fake Nino Ricci Autograph

Last week I was at the Goodwill outlet at Yonge/Jarvis. If you can get in without actually touching anything, the experience isn't so bad. Just outside the door there was a homeless woman sprawled out on the sidewalk reading Runaway. "Excuse me," she said to me. "What day is it today?"

"It's Wednesday."


"That's right."



"Is it Wednesday?"

"It is."

"Not Thursday?"

"It will be tomorrow."

"What about Tuesday?"

"That was yesterday."

"And Monday?"

"Two days ago."

"But it's Friday."

"After tomorrow."

"Sunday then."

"No, that's still four days off."


"And," I said, "Saturday was four days ago."

"Well, sure!" she said, throwing up her hands. "Who the fuck doesn't know that?"

I bought a copy of Nino Ricci's In a Glass House. I'd read it in a library incarnation, and couldn't pass up the opportunity to own the hardcover for $3.50. That's a subway token. (Leaving the subway, I bought a Mars bar for $2. So a hardcover Canadian novel is worth slightly more than a bar of chocolate. But get on that subway while eating the chocolate bar and you could've taken home a first printing hardcover Barney's Version. Buy a Metropass and you could've had both books, the chocolate, and you could've fed Ms. A. Munro for three months.)

So I was on the subway, surrounded by five people whose breath could start forest fires, when I cracked open Ricci's book. There, on the flyleaf, was a signature and an inscription: "To Caroline Bell, Yours, Nino Ricci, 1993."

I'd bought an autographed first edition for three bucks. Not that it was worth much, but I was a little excited. I don't own many signed books, and I'm trying to build a newer Canadian library--something that I'd enjoy reading. So it seemed like a good buy. (I've got an autographed copy of To Know Ourselves, which I bought for one dollar. That's it.)

I have a friend who really like Ricci's work, so I decided to stop to show her my buy. Actually, I was going to give it to her. The charm had worn off around College, and I figured it would be a nice gesture. Also, I wanted to sleep with her.

I got to her house, showed her the book, and invited myself in.

"Here," I said, offering it to her. "This is for you." A pause. "Nice top by the way. What'd you do with all the potatoes?"

She took the book. "I already have a copy."

"This one's signed." I opened it to the flyleaf and pointed out the signature.

She was quiet for about twenty seconds, then started to laugh. "First, you didn't have to take off your shoes. And this isn't his autograph. This is a fake."

"A fake?"

"Yeah. See." And she went to her bookshelf, took out a copy of Lives of the Saints, and opened it to the front cover. "I got this signed when I met him at the PEN dinner last year. See." And she showed me the signature. It was nothing like what I had. It was looping and fluid; mine was angular and violent.

"Who the hell would forge Nino Ricci's name?" I said.

"I don't know."

"Nino Ricci! Come on!" A pause. "Is that No Frills lipstick?"

"Maybe someone did it as a joke."

"But it's inscribed to someone. Do you think it was a gift?"

"I don't know."

"Someone tried to trick this woman?"

"I don't know, David."

"I'm really upset. This is really upsetting me. I need to sit down...Where's your bed?"

"You're not sitting on my bed."

"I just need to lie down for a minute. I'm really shocked here."


"What? You think I'm going to take something? Watch me! Come up, sit beside me, and watch me. I won't touch anything."


"No? Okay, then lie beside me. You're tired, right? It's, what, four? We'll just lie down, have a nap, and then we'll talk some more about the book...I really can't believe this."

"Let's just sit in the kitchen."

"I hate your kitchen."

"My kitchen's beautiful!"

"I can't stand all those pinecones."

"Fine, you can lie on my bed."


"Just don't wake up my boyfriend."

Nino Ricci...That's every single day.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Canadian Writers Are Tough; If They Were Nuts They'd Be Chestnuts...Or Maybe Acorns

I have a friend who likes the hardboiled American writers. He can't stop talking about Raymond Chandler's knuckles. He found a picture of Chandler's hands; he enlarged it at a Black's and hung it on his wall.

"Look at those fingers," he keeps telling me, whenever I'm over. "The man was a puncher. He was a brawler."

"So?" I tell him. "Canadians aren't any different."

He knows that I like Canadian writing; he knows that I have many friends among the canonized Canadian elite.

"Canadians are..." and he waved his hands in disgust. "They're punks, David. They couldn't break a chair. Hammett could've owned them. Spillane would have choked on their bones."

"Not Camilla Gibb," I said, "she's all meat."

"You know what I'm saying."

And there is the idea out there that Canadian writers are wimps, thin and lithe. Someone once told me a story about David Helwig trying to figure out how to use a Black & Decker cordless drill. He couldn't figure out how to replace the bit, and then he couldn't turn on the thing. And when he finally got it on, he couldn't operate the safety. Then he got the safety popped, but he couldn't figure out why the bit was spinning counter-clockwise. Finally he just said, "Fuck it, who needs a deck anyway?"

"Look; let me tell you something. David Chariandy's tough."

"Who's David Chariandy?" my friend asked.

"He's a Canadian writer."

"Oh. Then he can't be tough. You're lying."

"I'm lying? I once saw him beat up," and I said this knowing my friend's mentality, "a huge black guy."

This seemed to impress him. "A huge black guy?"

"Yes. A huge black guy. Granted, it was his grandfather..."


"That was a joke, okay. A joke. But Russell Smith. Russell Smith is tough. I was once on a TTC streetcar with him when some crazy guy decided to take out his dick and wave it at all the women on the car."

"And what did Smith do?"

"He twisted it in a knot."

"He twisted it in a knot?"

"He just grabbed, pulled, twisted."


"That's tough. You won't see Latimer do that."

"Well, he grabbed, he pulled...but I don't think he twisted."

"And Atwood," I had to get in a shot at Atwood, "Atwood is like steel."

"She is?"

"Yeah," I said. "She's cold, she's unfeeling, and she rusts if you leave her out in the rain."

"And she's a fighter?"

"She fights everyone! Bob Rae pushed her at the Gillers. He just bumped her; he didn't mean anything by it. She took care of him."


"My uncle did the crowns."

So Canadianists shouldn't feel ashamed. M.C. Blais could throw Michael Chabon down a flight of stairs any time she wanted. We're just that good.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Canadian TV Personalities Whom Canadians Want To See Nude: All Of Them

It's an interesting natural phenomenon that any woman who appears on television will one day become the subject of a Google search reading, "(Insert Name) nude."

And that's exactly how it'll be phrased: "(Insert Name) nude."

Not the same for male actors and news anchors and weathermen. But while ugly men are sometimes allowed on television, there isn't a Toronto-area woman converted into digital zeroes and ones who would be unwelcome at a post-Little Mosque on the Prairie orgy. We don't have any Candy Crowleys. Just her attractive best friend.

Since Google saves search statistics, you can find out which Canadian personalities are the most likely to be Photoshopped into a DAP, or a DP, or a DPP, or even a DAPP--which, incidentally, is what killed Zsa Zsa Gabor.

I'll limit this to Toronto-area women, because I just don't know which Nordic, Manitoban live-eye reporters are out there. And if I could watch Portage la Prairie TV, I would. But I can't, so I don't.

Top Ten Google Searches (October 13, 2007, to October 13, 2008.)
1: Larysa Harapyn (Nude)
2: Dina Pugliese (Nude)
3: Mika Midolo (Nude)
4: Ann Rohmer (Nude)
5: Laura DiBattista (Nude)
6: Anne Mroczowski (Nude)
7: Kathryn Humphries (Nude)
8: Amanda Lang (Nude)
9: Liz West (Nude)
10: Melissa Grelo (Nude)

Your rankings may be different, but let's get past that; let's think about the mentality behind these searches. Because we're not talking about one or two people looking for, let's say, Larysa Harapyn and a baseball bat. We're talking about thousands. Tens of thousands. And, in some cases, hundreds of thousands.

In the last year there've been 14,113 searches for "Ann Rohmer and triple team." I searched for relevant rumours, and couldn't find anything. That means that 14,113 separate guys, in 14,113 separate parts of the world, were in the shower, in their car, at work, and thought, "Ann Rohmer...Three guys...Nah...Well, it's worth a shot."

Strange. (I also found 85 searches for "Stephane Dion NFL punt pass and kick champion 1986," but most of those came from Queen West.)

Forget that there are only about two million men in the GTA. We can get past that, too. (Although it means that something like one out of every ten guys you pass on the street has a DVD library of Breakfast Television traffic reports.) I want to know the mentality of someone looking for nude shots of Amanda Lang. To me, that's like typing in "Stephen Harper Tonight Show." What? Harper wasn't on with Carson, Doc, and Ed? No. Can't be. He sat next to Uri Geller. I remember it.

That speaks to the beautiful desperation that is the Canadian man. There couldn't be nude pictures of Amanda Lang. No, it's impossible. Can't be. She'd never do it--never in a million years.

But let's just check.

And people type in Amanda Lang Nude like the BNN host had a long life as a public nudist before jumping from CNN to SqueezePlay.

I want to know who does the hiring at CityTV. It has to be a man. That station leads the league in Hawaiian Tropic girls who now know the proper pronunciation of Quay.

I'm trying to figure out what a City interview would be like: "...And you say that the Grotto is fun, but no one ever picks up their towel?"

My friend Alex argues that any woman who appears on TV should also appear nude on the Web. But's he says the same thing about men. So, in essence, everyone on TV should do at least one nude shoot.

And he's practical about all this: "To save time, let them do it together. I don't mind. Guy-girl, girl-girl-guy, guy-guy, it's fine. David, I'm not that hard to please."

His wife's on the radio.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Stephen Harper Having An Orgasm

An impression of Stephen Harper having an orgasm. (He has two kids, so this has actually happened. It must've. Right?)


The room is completely black. The lights have been extinguished, and garbage bags are taped to the windows. The blinds are shut, and a towel is stuffed in the small space between door and floor.


Wake up!

Forget about me. Just keep going.

Not if you're asleep.

What's the difference?

It's sick.

Mother Fletcher, it's bright in here. Are those Glad bags?

I'm almost done.


Oh, you like it faster?

Well I can't keep holding it forever.

Then let go.

I can't. My watch is stuck.

Take it off!


Are you getting close?

I think so. The dust just settled.


Yes, that's what I said.


My voice is modulated properly, is it not?


Oh, Saint Christopher, here we go.


That was...okay.

I'm never sure that I'm doing it right.

You are. You are.

But I can't ever tell if I'm lying there properly. Shouldn't I arch my back, or put a pillow under my thigh?

No. You're doing a great job.

But should my arms be at my side like that?

Mrs.'s a personal choice. Everyone's different.

Maybe I should cross them over my abdomen.
And maybe I...yeah!...Maybe I should wear a tie!


Wait a second. These shoes are killing my feet.

Back From The Canadian Campaign Trail: Stephane Dion Reads The Great Gatsby

I've been gone for about a week, and I ought to explain my absence. With the enlivening thrust of the Canadian federal election pushing through the abnormally beautiful days of autumnal Toronto, I left the city to attend as many political Town Hall meetings and bus-stop rallies and whistle-stop parties as I could.

And I saw more than a few.

These Canadian politicians--they're like what Elvis would have been if he'd lived. The brawn of Layton, the sequins jumpsuits of Harper, the way Dion sings Runaround Sue as an encore, and Elizabeth May, that plucky Hartford-born environmentalist, who did not write Late Nights on Air.

On a certain level, I wondered Why even bother? Why follow these people, why listen to their stories and plans and absurd monologues?

No reason. There really isn't a reason, other than a desire to, as Orwell says, see what we would've been like had the meteor missed.

Campaign Highlights
A few things that Canadian news outlets didn't cover: 1) Stephane Dion reading The Great Gatsby--in French--to students in a Sudbury high school. Everything was going really well until he got to the part about Rosie Rosenthal (which, in the French edition, is right there on the first page); 2) Harper getting caught in a stiff breeze in Red Deer. His hair was so aerodynamically coiffed that his brown shoes actually elevated from the dais, and we all saw his black socks; 3) Elizabeth May asked by a reporter what she'd do if the Green Party took a majority government. May said, "I don't know...Pay the ransom, I guess."

A lot of people like to complain that Canadian politics is boring. Our leaders lack charisma, charm, wit, personality. That's just not true. Anyone who's ever seen Stephen Harper on the horse shoe pitch knows that this man's as close to Red Buttons as any politician, anywhere. We just don't get to see him making his cheese sandwiches, singing Day-O as the knife spreads the mustard on the white bread. And Dion isn't a nerd; he's not a geek. He's as cool and sagacious as any French-Canadian. Those people are funny...Like the Japanese. Have you ever been to a comedy club in Catholic Montreal? I've never heard knock-knock jokes like that before. I've never seen funnier vests. If you go, prepare to be entertained.

But Dion reading Gatsby was terrific.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Drinking Kerosene With Chuck Klosterman; Hearing Stories About When He Lived In An Elevator

Last week I went camping with Chuck Klosterman. Actually, we climbed a mountain--Silver Peak, in Killarney Provincial Park. Chuck was in Toronto doing research for a new book, but he wouldn't tell me what the book's about.

"Homelessness?" I asked, knowing that Toronto streets are year-round sleeping porches.

"No, nothing to do with that," he said.

"So it's not homelessness?"


"You're not going to live on the street, then write about it?"

"Yes, I'm going to do that."

"So, it's about homelessness?"


"Then what's it about?"


In the canoe, paddling to our campsite he kept asking if the rumours about me and J.D. Salinger were true. I ignored him for as long as I could. It didn't even bother me that he was paddling with one of those brown plastic stir sticks that we'd picked up at McDonald's.

"What rumours?" I finally said.

"That you don't know him."

That's the kind of person Klosterman is. So, while it may seem like fun to sleep with him in a tent, you have to understand that there is a downside.

"Get some wood," I told him, when we'd finally beached our canoe and set up camp.

"Okay." And he wandered off into the woods. Three hours later he was back with one birch stick.

"Where's the rest?"

"I told it to follow me."

"Didn't work?"

"No, no. They're coming."

A pause. "Why'd you carry that one?"

"It's a white one."


He spent the rest of the day trying to convince me that you can drink kerosene--that, in many cultures, it's a substitute for alcohol.

"What cultures would those be?" I asked.

"Very remote African and Eurasian. Where the climate doesn't allow them to ferment sugar."

"But they've got plenty of kerosene?"

"Oh, they can make that."

"They can make it, you say? From what?"

"From love."

He drank the kerosene, got quite incoherent, and started to tell me a story about how, as a student, he'd spent four months living in an elevator.

"I didn't mind the up and down," he said, "but the doors would always open. They'd let in the cold air. Sometimes I'd leave to use the washroom, and when I got back there'd be a different car in my shaft. 'I've been robbed!' I would say. Of course, I hadn't. Until one time I was. But even then I was wrong. I didn't have much in there; only a sleeping bag, some books, some cutlery, and a lot of porno."

We drove back to Toronto, Klosterman telling me how much he'd enjoyed himself. "We should do this again, David. It was lots of fun."

"I'm glad. I had a good time, too. Give me a call the next time you're up here. I guess you're pretty busy in the States, but I'd be glad to show you the Roots plant."

"That's terrific. I like communing with nature. But it's so cold up here."

"It is, but it's fall. You should come in the summer."

"In the summer I'm in a lunar capsule."

Two days later I saw him panhandling on the corner of Bloor and Avenue Road. "This is funny," I said.


"Bloor and Avenue Road."

"This isn't a good place?"

"You've got to go south and east. You're in Yorkville."

"Yeah, but you get great stuff here. For example, someone just gave me an icy stare."

That's Chuck.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

When Your Best Man Is Margaret Atwood

My cousin's getting married in June, and last night, at Rosh Hashana dinner, I was asking his brother if he'd been pegged as the best man. He said that he had, but that he was a little concerned about having to write the speech. He looked at me; I looked at him.

"Don't you write things?" he asked me.


"But aren't you a good writer?"


"I don't know what I'm going to do about this speech."

I was waiting for him to ask for my help. I want to write that speech; I'm going to write that speech. But it'll take some string pulling on my part to get him actually to speak the words that I'll put on paper.

(His brother was at the fiancee's family's house for dinner, so we were free to discuss the issue in their absence.)

Here's the situation: I have four male cousins, all belonging to my mom's sister. The second-eldest is the one getting married. The eldest slept with the second-eldest's fiancee. This was before the engaged couple met. The eldest cousin isn't really the slick type, yet he's slept with many, many women. All Jews, all of the drunken, privileged type.

So he slept with the girl--the current fiancee. Then my other cousin met her, bonded with her, and proposed. The eldest cousin and the second-eldest cousin moved into an apartment together. Since they're both very family-oriented, they saw each other all the time.

And my aunt and uncle know that they've slept together; my grandparents know that they've slept together. It's an open secret because he's told everyone. Consequently she hates him, and won't talk to him, look at him, sit beside him, or say hello to him at family functions.

And now he [the eldest] is the second-eldest's best man.

So I asked Margaret Atwood what to do about this speech.

"Do you think that I should mention they'd slept together before she met her fiance?" I asked.

"No," Atwood said, "I think that would be completely inappropriate."

"I know," I agreed, "I think it would be awful."

"How many people are they expecting at the wedding?"

"Four hundred and fifty."

"Where is it being held?"

"The Yorkville Four Seasons. Why does that matter? It's a joke that you can't make. She'll flip out. She'll cry. She'll get up and leave. I can't ruin her day like that. I like my cousin. We're close. We've been close for twenty years."

"You might be able to get away with it. What were you thinking about writing?"

"I was going to say--and this, imagine, is being spoken by my eldest cousin--that if I'd known that they were going to end up together, I would have erased the tape."

"Oh, that's okay. Who's going to understand that? That's tame."

"Well, what would you write?" I asked.

"Me? I don't know: Congratulations to the lucky couple. If you see the sheets hanging out the window tonight, it's just wine."

"And you think they'll get that? This isn't a room of medievalists. They're accountants and dentists."

"I think it's funny."

"I can do a lot better."

She waved her hands. "Let's see it then."

"Okay. Again, as my cousin: 'When we were kids, Mark used to inherit my old clothes. Don't worry, Mark, this one won't be tight on you.'"

She had an apoplectic fit, thrashing and screaming, her teeth clenched. "I HATE IT! I HATE IT I HATE IT I HATE IT!"

"God, that was tasteless. I'm sorry." I felt bad--I actually felt bad about that one.

"I need a break."

"We'll get back to this later."

"Yeah, later," I said. "Let's take a few minutes. Got any water?"

"In the fridge."


And we went in different directions.

...And I pound away at the first draft.

Things To Do If You're Woody Allen has released a list of potential Woody Allen projects being considered for '09 production. The list was found by a chambermaid in the Mallorcan hotel where Allen was staying during a recent Spanish swing. It's clearly raw, but there are a few interesting ideas here:

10: A man returns from work to find that his wife's invited the postman to live with them.

9: Public bathrooms I have used.

8: A single guy tries to buy a car, but is rebuffed by female salesmen.

7: Two environmentally friendly friends (a man and a woman) decide to live a zero-emissions life. (Like veganism for environmentalists. We follow them as they are constantly thwarted by a Royal typewriter.)

6: An abstract-expressionist cosmetic surgeon.

5: We attend a meeting of the ex-girlfriends of dental students.

4: Uncovering the lies and errors in fact heard at a recent lunch with my grandfather, who is dead.

3: A Jew takes over a cemetery in Jackson, Mississippi; tries to increase business, attract visitors, children.

2: A doctor preps a comatose patient for a Senate bid.

1: How to park at shul (during the High Holy/Holidays).
All Posts On This Site Are Intended As Juvenalian Satire. If They Veer Into Horatian Satire, That's OK Too. Just, Please, Don't Take Them Too Seriously. PhD Students Can't Afford Libel Suits. CUPE Doesn't Cover Court Costs.
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