The cinders crunched under his boots as he walked. The stench was vivid, but nondescript, the indeterminate nature being yet another one of Hell's manifold irritations. The smell seemed to soak right into your skin and sit there, never quite the same, always vile, and completely impossible to pin down. Today it was something like burning mold crossed with week-old vomit. Waking up to the stink tomorrow would be an unpleasant surprise, as it always was. In your dreams you could wish yourself to a more pleasant place, like a Cambodian prison, or the river Somme, circa 1916. But you'd wake up, as always, and the, ah ha ha, damned smell would be there to greet you.

Forget about meeting people at a festival, which only happens when you stop moving and bump into the first person you know (target size doubled, everyone else you have ever known will exponentially gravitate into the dense nucleus of strange-to-each-other-ers); if you're serious about running into remote acquaintances and people that you only ever met once five years ago, you accomplish this by leaving the festival and walking counter to the traffic flow. Face to face, you explain endlessly (to people you only know just well enough to ask "where do I know you from?") that you are aware that you are proceeding in the opposite direction from the Lantern Festival. Yes, yes, you live near my destination on one end of this street and are proceeding toward your destination, which is near my home at the other end of this street. I have already had this conversation five times in the past ten minutes!

Lantern Festivals, despite the sense you may get at the park, are not in fact to everyone's taste. Millions more prefer the fireworks. Me, I can always enjoy a good fire, but as I mature the mob scene of a million and a half bridge and tunnel people becomes somehow less appealing to the misanthropist in me. Even among East Van's milling thousands, my adoptive tribe, I may only ever spend an evening at the Lantern Festival again on stage or in a canoe paddling around the periphery of the lake with a respite from the pressing masses only a few strokes away. This isn't that indie-rock "I don't like them anymore because everyone else does" posturing, but a genuine impression that the popular success enjoyed is to the detriment of one's ability to fully enjoy what's offered there, much like the dialogue-drowning crowds at Boca Del Lupo's outdoor theatre installations or, one must imagine, Burning Man so many years along. Maybe I can even improve the event by exercising the easy restraint and keeping it from being cluttered up with one more nonplussed body.

My destination, the bar at the Princeton Hotel, is far enough from the evening's blue chip offerings to be nearly a small town unto itself; east enough along East Hastings to escape junkietown and close enough to the port for its tired longshoremen, long since blind to the entertainment appeal of explosions and dismissive of the hippy bullshit at the other end of Victoria Drive, to come across as any other weary blue-collar workers in any of the other barely-on-the-map flyspecks we've rolled up to in our van seeking the golden mean of people both interested in listening to six people perform political country music and able to cough up enough to make it at least a break-even proposition for the performers.

I have a LiveJournal for this. Why am I posting here? I'm getting to that.

Despite my turning up too late for the sound check, the Joey Only Outlaw Band's first set wins the crowd, such as it is, over (the hurdle we must continually overcome: what do these city kids know about country music? but Joey is not as urban as his context may suggest) and we take in some of the sweet night air out front before the second set begins. That is when it happens. The man walking by does a double-take and bravely (for to what hugely majority portion of the population will this only be interpreted as an insult if understood at all?) asks me if I'm pseudo_intellectual? I chuckle unbelievingly and boggle a bit, since I know that Vancouver's e2 community was dead on arrival, and ask the individual which noder he once was.

Gosh. It's true that I live with achan and make an effort to see old friends at Portland's annual Columbus Day do (huh, and enjoy perhaps some small role in the meeting and eventual marriage of bus ridin' fool and qousqous) but I felt that otherwise I'd managed to achieve a pretty clean break with my onetime raison d'ĂȘtre; no subconscious drive felt to node, soft-link or vote, the once-wallpapering flood from my EMAR has diminished to a couple of annual Christmas cards. In the spring I usually get e-mail from radlab0 and some years, I even consider writing her back. This is not the first time a stranger has encountered me on the street and asked if I was p_i, but understandably not for years; since I ultimately took four steps back for every five I advanced here, a current user has no reason for my handle to stick in their craw more than any of the other hundreds of fled users.

So who is this stranger instantly carting me back on this merry whirlwind of memory courtesy of my brain? It turns out that this is not our first encounter. I would set the following aside apart, but having demonstrated at such great length to what extent the tangent is a core element of my style, I shall just continue to bluster boldly along. My memory was never the sharpest, and I fall back on all sorts of contextual cues to help me figure things out. Names and faces I'm abominable with (nicknames strangely less so) and it's eminently possible that the person I meet at an open mic on Monday I will fail to place when encountered again in the park on Wednesday. (The following Monday, however, I can discuss at some length your song choice the previous week.) To help make sense of where I've been, it turns out that I can only maintain gold memories by setting them in a confabulated amalgam of the kind of neat, just-so narrative that exists in fiction to keep it from coming across as having the tedium and meaninglessness that real life often does. Hence the earlier question: where do I know you from? What did we do? What did we discuss? Tell me the story of us, because though I have forgotten the characters, if refreshed I will remember the rising action and the plot twists. It may not have made sense then, but I will find a way to dovetail it into the grand tapestry of narrative threads.

The difference here was not between Monday and Wednesday and the open stage and the park; I had previously met the individual in question once, for a brief period of a few hours, in the summer of 2002, when I met a gang of Toronto noders along a cross-country tour of sorts I self-styled A Very Hairy Charivari. We went to an art gallery, where I saw an art photo of my former landlord's father in the nude, and later some of us attended a side excursion of some Django Reinhardt-style hot gypsy jazz. Five years later, on the other side of the country, the noder now known as animals picked me out at a glance and matched me to that brief and distant memory. (The unique beard-bun technique betrays me.) And I, in turn, invited him in to catch our band's second set.

Unbeknownst to me, he's been prospecting for gold in the language-instruction mines of East Asia, touring the great national parks of Canada on vacation as a demonstration of something that we have here that Taiwan does not. As such, the patchwork Canadiana of our standard set likely struck a nerve -- originals about Louis Riel, the backwoods of BC and central Ontario as well as classic offerings such as the Blackfly and Rodeo Songs and a generous helping of Stompin' Tom on the side... further demonstrations of qualities likely elusive on the island of Formosa. So you couldn't hear the accordion -- what else is new? -- you at least get bragging rights at accidental insight into p_i's new life that maybe would have raised a few eyebrows (what's that joker doing playing country music in bars? That only suggests two fundamental incompatibilities with the p_i I know!) half a decade ago.

(Speaking of half a decade ago, following the concert I hustle out of the bar sometime after midnight to catch the tail end of my 10-year high school graduation reunion. But despite the recurring themes here of memory and nostalgia, it falls outside the scope of this post.)

My new/old noder buddy is curious what happened to one of his favourite of my pieces up here, a short story entitled I swallow with eyes that eat. Again I'm floored to have made such an impact that the title of this elusive memory-shard sticks right in his head, fragmentary information he could never have expected to have a use for again but just couldn't get rid of -- sitting in a jumbled mound like the partnerless socks of the mind. I don't really have an adequate explanation for where it went -- you see, since I followed the lead of dem_bones and posted a lot of material up here that I wasn't the original author of, at some point the prevailing administrative opinion drifted to a position requiring much of it to be removed... and this piece apparently just got caught up in the cruel and ponderous machinery (along with, uh, all of my nodeshells.) It's ancient enough history that I don't care anymore, but the benefits of hindsight haven't made that particular episode make any more sense in retrospect. No copies of the text are up online anywhere, and really the only indication Google has that the work ever existed is a recording of me reciting it (at ) at the 2002 Portland Nodeslam. (Between you and me I think that would have constituted significant-enough evidence of my authorship of the piece; it takes balls bigger than mine to swagger up to the podium and plagiarise for a quarter of an hour on tape. I figure the problem in this case was not the result of any acrimonious feud between the editors and myself so much as an unfortunately bureaucratic slip of the axe. Whoopsie! Oh well, it's not like anyone will miss it, right?)

Because this was real life and not a story (except inasmuch as I am recounting it to you), there are no satisfying conclusions or neat lessons to be learned through this encounter: my unexpected guests packed up after the second set and I got a long 3 am walk home to reflect upon time wasted and energies misdirected -- business as usual, in other words. Rather, I come here to announce that I surprisingly thought about e2 today; that years after I had written it off (and vice versa, presumably), like bamboo shoots destroying a sidewalk it managed to find an improbable way to interject itself, however briefly, back into my life. I might have shared these reflections on my LiveJournal but surely it makes no more sense to discuss e2 there than it does to discuss LJ here. If anything I suppose it indicated to me that perhaps it was time (in this lazy "open letter" format, perhaps) to ask some member of the current e2 administrative hierarchy (who has likely never even heard of me before) to reach back into my node heaven and restore that short story. (While you're messing around in that shadowy afterlife of ghosts and phantoms, it would make my day (really: making up for the e2 secret santa present I never got!) if junkpile's rowan would rather not waste any time could be briefly exhumed (NB, numerous admins have told me: it can't -- it was replaced by a recantation prior to deletion (I guess she came around to the antithesis that in fact I would rather waste lots and lots of time) ... which achieves kind of the opposite of making my day. But thanks for looking!) and its text passed along to me. Somehow, labouring beneath delusions of digital permanence, I neglected to save a local copy for my press kit, only later realising that the things you want the most are the things it turns out you (really) can't have.) Hope everything is going well with you; the site seems to have reached a comfortable equilibrium. (As for the seductive, compromising dangers of comfort and stability, well, surely that's a matter to be brought up by a younger, more idealistic man than I.)

(Posted without paragraph break tags. What a mortifying failure of memory.)

(Man, rescinded before nuked. That's like sowing the fields with salt!) (On the plus side, while I will never again know precisely how JP phrased my admiration for the apple milkshake server who made me a regular, I am surprised to find myself moving in the server's circles again. Denied the ideal description, I am forced to settle for the genuine article.)

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