The TADS at Shenanigans
(For Willie Thornton-Trump, Reg Johansen, Ryan Knighton, George Bowering and George Stanley)
My first blind guy played the drums. I noticed him not only for the
cane but his long blond hair – I was a sucker for long haired
men at the time – and his gorgeous eyes. (Yes, it's ironic) It
was at the Railway Club, and I walked up to
his table and asked if I could join him. (Not 'ballsy', just that after
my divorce nothing scared me.) We slept together that night and
I was surprised to find that just because someone's blind they don't
necessarily touch you in any more special ways than a sighted person. (By the way, never tell them that.) Anyways, he's not the point of this story.
My second blind guy (who came on the heels of the first–I don't know why–but
my friends either thought it was funny or that I was going through a
weird phase), I met at yet another bar. Shenanigans was right across
from my hair salon and we all went there almost every night. Actually,
I went there every night. "Do you wanna go for a beer?"
That was always asked on the way out at the end of the day. I don't
know why anyone even bothered with that question. We were like lemmings.
After sitting a bit, I noticed an older guy with a white cane
passing by in a T-shirt with that 'puffy' printing on it, all in
braille. I thought Gary (blind guy #1 and now my friend), would love it,
so started talking to puffy T-shirt guy who turned out to be one
William Thornton-Trump. Willie for short. After a somewhat lengthy conversation he asked me to join his
table which, after a few more beers with my friends, I did. Funny, I
never noticed these guys before–I think they usually sat in the back.
This leads us to: Blind guy #2, "The TADS at Shenanigans" and my Brush with Greatness (being the whole point of this story).
Willie's table was all writers and poets. George, the other older guy,
taught at Simon Fraser University; most of the younger ones were the
TADS – the students – and there were other
friends and hangers on. (Like me) They were there every Friday for 'Pub Night'. George (Bowering1 no less – go look him up) commanded the table. Reg Johansen was the beatnick (he even had the
voice down), George Stanley, the gay guy (and a bit bitter if
you ask me. oh, and I think he was secretly in love with Reg), some
poet from Croatia or Serbia I can't recall and blind guy #2, Ryan
Knighton.2 (Google him too!)
Friday Pub Night became a regular thing for me, where I would arrive
with my friends and then abandon them for the writers and poets. Like
who wouldn't, right? As per my usual M.O., I ended up sleeping with
Ryan. No, not because he was blind, but because he was hot, and a
younger man. Divorce does that to a woman. It's natures way of making the aging process easier because it's saying "It's okay Honey, you've still got what it takes".
also had no special 'feely' skills about him as I was still
sure blind people would even after Gary. This was possibly due to them
both having more recently lost their sight. Actually their sight was
only 'failing' at that point (I never knew what they could discern and
had to watch butt-scratching or whatever else it is you can
get away with while dating the blind). But they were both legally blind. You can always tell when they're 'legal' because that's when they get the white cane.
relationship with Ryan didn't last of course, but we did read poetry to
each other on my garden balcony and I'll always have that. But
what I really wanted was to sleep with George Bowering, and not
because he was friends with Michael Ondaatje, but because he was so
damn sexy and liked to flirt with me. Even in his dog-eared T-shirt and
sporting just-woke-up writers hair. (fzztch!) I saw a picture of him as
a young TAD. He looked as-cool-as-fuck. Still did. Reminded me of a
young Chet Baker before his heroin addiction got the better of him.
(Like when doesn't heroin get the better of someone)
I kept in touch with George (Bowering no less!–did I say?) and Willie for a while after I moved to San Francisco. George emailed
me a picture of himself as a kid on his tricycle which I spent hours colorizing in
Photoshop but never got around to actually sending him. Last I heard,
my Mom emailed saying he became Canada's first Poet Laureate. Way to
go George! That was my brush with greatness. Oh, and Ryan too.
always remember those days, no months, after my divorce with fondness.
My only regret was that I never found out what TADS meant.
Musing on Some Poets
From: Blonds on Bikes. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1997.
Those poets, heads coming out of collars,
advised us, showed us how to hold paper and look good,
did we sometime grow tired of them, those
who lived for us,
died for us,
rotted under ground for us,
so we may move.
Not friends, really, not teachers,
poets, whose names glittered when we were alone,
whose books dropped like gleaming newborn calves into our unsteady hands,
did we read them as if pulling shavings off our souls,
never stepped out of the Pacific combers with shine on morning
never twisted body out of grip of coal giant ogre
save with inspiration of our poets,
and who knows what our
What are we now besides older;
a young man newly graduated from university,
black gown still on him said I envy you and your friends,
you got to make the last ones,
there isnt anything to make now, or no one knows what there is.
I said it seems that way but there is always something,
and I showed him my teeth through yellow beer.
Do we old farts say thank you every genuflecting morning
to those poets with agate names who showed us their synapses?
Nowadays the young want us to love the earth,
And I never say out loud to them that my dear old people
Are columns of earth, walk around, sit in chairs,
discard cigarettes and write that's left of poems.
They were low lights between mountains visible
To the evening gaze, they were evaporate mornings,
They are not much but stones in the earth, they are not
specimens but the authors of words should be whispered inside a dark bowl from Siena.
I have no remaining skill for form,
just feel words jostle each other in doorways on the way out, sit here this evening
remembering a former life, I'm with friends
all lovely all restrained by hope, all agreed without saying so
-those poets gave us a way to waste our lives
saying useless things, smiling indulgently at each other's personal diaspora,
carrying mismatched goodies on the way to the grave,
trip, fall into hole, write on dirt walls
a first and last sonnet,
solving all, coming to rest, combing hair, adjusting socks,
kissing no one but the image of Jesus, disbursing mind as if it were mercury,
listening for the voices to arrive with the worms.
(after George Stanley's party)
It is simply not a horse. It is not
quite a thundering chariot bringing
back to the Coliseum, or even a buggy
for old Main Street, not
even in black and white. Navigation
is not in the arena of language,
this sea being
too cold and bright for sail.
And the space it canvasses is
for rockets or shuttles
or the likes of stars.
Then when this man falls
from his Zamboni, his head
checking the ice, he is
Paul of Tarsus,
and I have a vision
among the thousands.
At The Reading
There is a bucket going around
for dropping names in.
Later the young poets
will kneel, hands folded piously
behind their backs,
and plunge their faces into the water
bobbing with indiscriminate mouths
while the Elders step out back
for a toke.
I was dreaming of my death when a car
alarm woke me. The odor of the dream
stayed in the room.
I tried to think
of some distraction: bodies of my former
lovers gone missing. The previous day
had vanished too. Thoughts of the one to come
pulsed in my brain like bells in a poem
Then my eyes lit upon
the rosy numerals of the bedside clock: 4:30.
4:30–is 43 times 10.
4:31–is prime. 4:32...
& sleep came back on mathematical sails.
*Please note: "The TADS at Shenanigans" has been CST approved