La version française de ces histoires se trouve sur En direct de l'intestin grêle

Wouldn't it be great if these stories were true? Unfortunately (or fortunately) they're not; they are just the product of my overworked mind. All characters and events are fictitious and if you think you recognize yourself or somebody you know in these stories, it was not my purpose and it is purely unintentional. In the meantime, I hope you will enjoy reading this blog. Feel free to link this blog wherever else you hang out on the Internet and to post comments below. I enjoy hearing from you.


Friday, December 23, 2011

A Christmas Story

Two boys listen intently to Santa Claus telling them he is going to break into their house in the middle of the night, raid their refrigerator and leave stuff in their stockings or shoes. If some kids are excited with this concept others rightly question the morality of such a behaviour.

It was the first week of December many years ago, shortly after I was married, and I was sitting on the couch with the lady who would later become my ex-wife.

– I wonder where we should set up the Christmas tree, she said.

– A Chrismas tree? Nobody is putting a dead tree in my living room! I replied.

– We could get an artificial tree, you know...

– A fake dead tree in my living room? Out of the question!

“The will of Woman is the will of God” they say, so I eventually agreed under one condition: I would be the one putting the angel on the top of the tree.

This wish surprised my wife so I told her how the tradition was born to crown a fir tree with this small winged character:

It was a week before Christmas and Santa Claus woke up in a good mood. He went downstairs to make coffee and put two slices of bread in the toaster for his breakfast. Then he sat down at the table, picked up the newspaper and started to read the front page:

“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer arrested last night after failing breath test”

Not believing his eyes, Santa Claus kept reading and learned that the night before, the head of his reindeer team was taken to the police station with cuffs on his hooves after knocking off four chimneys, starting a fight and refusing to take a Breathalyzer test. He was to be jailed until he could be seen by a judge on December 28.

Santa Claus considered replacing his reindeer with goats following Rudolph’s imprisonment related to drinking issues. However, the goats’ lewd behaviour proved to be a more serious problem and Santa quickly dropped the idea.

Still in shock, Santa discovered on the second page that Legolas and Elrond, the leaders of his elfin crew, were announcing that they were going on strike and would cease to manufacture toys before Christmas. They were denouncing bad working conditions, protesting against unpaid overtime and demanding better benefits.

Santa Claus choked on his coffee and spilled the contents of his mug on the red suit that he was wearing. This was particularly annoying since he had just picked it up from the cleaner the day before.

Santa did not chafe easily but now he was simply furious.

To make matters worse, at that moment, the smoke detector went off: Santa’s toasts were burning!

Quickly he got up, opened the windows to clear the air, all the time fuming and swearing in such an uncivilized manner that I cannot repeat it here.

That is when a tiny angel entered the room with a fir tree under his arm and asked:

– Santa, what do you want me to do with this tree?

“... and that is how this beautiful tradition began,” I explained to my wife who looked at me, stunned, and beginning to regret the vows she had taken...

In my opinion, putting an angel on top of a tree is an efficient way to alleviate one’s Christmas frustrations and is preferable to putting up a Festivus pole (despite the latter “very high strength-to-weight ratio”). Many thanks to Mrs. Boudreault for the photo.

Merry Christmas to all the readers of Straight from the Bowels.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Tax Collector

That morning when Matthew got up to go to work, there was a gutted pig on his porch.

Disgusted at the sight of the carcass, Matthew called his servant and asked him to remove it and to clean the porch. Then he went to the stable to get his donkey.

In the alley leading to the livery, someone on the upper floor of a neighbouring house threw the contents of a chamber pot out the window. Matthew stepped away just in time to avoid being covered with excrement. When he looked up to see who did that there was, of course, nobody there.

He could hear his donkey braying in its stall: somebody had painted the donkey green during the night.

Passersby laughed at him as he headed to work on his green donkey.

The donkey is known for his laziness and stubbornness. However, it is a more economical way to travel than by camel or by horse.

How he hated his job as a tax collector! Even though the pay was good, it was a permanent position and there were benefits, the contempt and disapproval from his fellow citizens were hard to take.

Since the beginning of time taxation has never been popular. Nobody enjoys paying taxes and everybody believes, whether it is true or not, that state finances are badly managed and that taxes profit the government and the rulers of the country.

The Taxation Office had assigned Matthew to Capernaum, on the shore of Lake Tiberias. The Jews kept calling the lake “Sea of Galillee” not wanting to recognize the authority of Tiberius, the Emperor of the Roman invaders. However Matthew did not work for the Romans: he was a public servant for the Governor, Herod Antipas, a Jew who was raised and educated in Rome.

Herod was praised by some for the great infrastructure works he oversaw and paid for with tax money. Others hated him because they saw him as the Romans’ puppet and as a man of loose morals.

Matthew arrived at work and tied up the donkey behind the building in the shade, and checked that there was enough water in the trough so the animal could drink when the sun was high.

He then entered his office, mentally preparing himself to meet merchants and traders who would shamelessly lie about their income and sales, and then, as soon as he threatened them with a tax audit, would end up begging without dignity.

At lunch time, Matthew left to get his donkey and have lunch under a palm tree before taking a nap.

The animal was lying on its side, still tied up, dead. Somebody had poisoned the water.

Appalled, Matthew stared at the animal’s corpse. He could not believe how cruel people were. He was not looking forward to walking, from now on, once a week, the six miles between Capernaum and Tiberias, the region’s capital, where he had to submit his report to the head office.

In Hebrew, Capernaum means “town of comfort”. However Matthew saw no comfort when he looked around at the customs office, the market with its tables crumbling under the weight of goods and produce, the warehouses bursting at the seams with merchandise waiting to be delivered by caravan or by boat to other towns, other countries.

He looked at the barracks where lodged the Roman soldiers responsible for keeping the peace in town. He knew that they would laugh at him if he reported the death of his donkey and that he would never be compensated.

He saw the inn and decided to have a pitcher of wine.

Smoke from hookah pipes filled the room. The patrons gave Matthew dirty looks as he came in. There was a free spot in a corner near a table where Simon, Andrew, James and John, local fishermen, were talking with a stranger.

The hookah pipe is a water pipe that was invented in India. It is very popular in the Middle East. It is mainly used to smoke flavoured tobacco but also other substances.

The innkeeper slammed the wine pitcher on the table where Matthew was sitting, his face in his hands, crying silently. Matthew poured a glass and, as he was about to drink, he noticed the stranger sitting with the fishermen looking kindly at him.

The way the man was looking at him troubled him and when the stranger asked “Tough day at work?” he could not hold back and started to cry again. The stranger rose and came and sat at Matthew’s table.

The stranger said his name was Yeshua. For whatever reason, Matthew felt safe and told him about the string of bad luck that had befallen him that day.

Yeshua quietly listened to him then said:

– We all have our cross to bear, myself maybe a little more than others. Follow me. Together we will wander on the dusty roads of Galillee. We will eat whatever food people give us and we will sleep in the fields to wake up in the morning drenched with dew. Some day after I am dead, you will write about all that you saw and heard. Then, you will go to Ethiopia where you will be stoned to death by the King’s soldiers for exposing his debauchery. I am sorry; there is nothing more I can do to help. Are you interested?

The Gospel of Saint Matthew recalls the years Matthew, patron saint of tax collectors, accountants and tax lawyers, spent with Jesus. However the account does not say much about how he became an apostle, that’s why Straight from the Bowels is gladly filling the blanks.

Was it the wine? Was it despair? Whatever it was, Matthew thought that the idea of becoming a vagrant and living a life of adventure was better than remaining a taxman.

In a second, his mind was made up.

When Matthew and Yeshua left the inn, Simon whispered to Andrew:

– I told you it would work! We still have some green paint left over. Let’s try again with someone else’s donkey tonight!

Andrew replied:

– All right! Let’s try with Judas, the moron working at the currency exchange who always complains that he is 30 silver coins short!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The mighty bison

Over half a century has already gone by since I was born... So many things can change in only 50 years.

For example 50 years was all it took to reduce the over 100 million American bison (bison bison) that once roamed North America’s plains to only a handful.

The mighty bison: Manitoba’s provincial emblem, the fierce bovine that adorns Wyoming’s State flag and the livelihood of “Buffalo” Bill Cody and generations of Native Americans was indeed the ruler of American prairies. Having few predators, apart from the grizzly bear and the wolf, they were quite happy grazing, resting, and chewing their cud before moving on to other pastures.

Their sheer size – a male Plains bison (bison bison bison – whoever comes up with Latin names for species obviously lacks imagination from time to time) is typically 2,000 pounds – their bad temper when annoyed, their speed and agility (a bison runs at 40 mph and can jump six feet high) and their tendency to stampede when incommoded by insects make them animals you do not want to cross.

A Plains bison can be recognized from a Wood bison (bison bison athabascae) by its size (the Plains bison is smaller) and the shape of its hump, which is rounded while the Wood bison’s hump is squared. Both are irritable.

For the American bison, gestation is 285 days and a bull is able to mate at three years of age. However, in a herd, the more mature bulls will exercise their authority to prevent the younger ones from mating. Therefore, until he is old and big enough, a male bison will be relegated to lustily watch the cows for his elders while practicing his reproductive technique on dismayed smaller bulls.

The 19th century was not a good time for the American bison. European settlers were moving west, encountering Natives who were reluctant to give up their space to accommodate the newcomers’ hunger for land. Reservations were created to confine the Aboriginals but for those who still insisted on living in their homeland, it was decided to starve them by killing the bison on which they heavily depended for food and trade.

To make matters worse for the emblematic ungulate, the new Americans were laying down hundreds of miles of railroad tracks wherever they went, often taking advantage of bison trails left bare between migrations.

As any migratory animal, the American bison liked their trails and wanted to re-use them, railroad tracks or not. Do you know how hard it is to keep a reliable train schedule when bison herds keep crossing the tracks according to their whim? Thus, there was another excellent reason for hunting them.

Finally, the industrial revolution gave the American bison the coup de grâce.

The new steam and combustion engines needed sturdy drive belts for connecting their spinning gears. The best belts were made with thick bison hides. Also, as the manufacturing sector’s productivity was improved by motorized factories, many new goods that required assembly were put on the market. Submitted to hydrolysis, bison bones produced collagen which made excellent glue to join parts together. Those were the days before duct tape, Velcro and tie-wraps, when securing parts was somewhat troublesome.

Buffalo bones are being loaded in a Canadian Pacific railway car to be shipped to a glue factory. Credit: Library and Archives Canada / PA-066544

For those reasons the hunting continued until the entire American bison population was worn down to a mere few specimen.

Fortunately, as the legend goes, in 1881 a South Dakota farmer purchased the last five remaining bison calves and thus preserved the species. Within 30 years there was a herd of about 1,000 bisons grazing the great American plains again.

However this led to a new controversy. Following DNA testing it was found that some bison genes had been polluted by regular cattle genes. I mean, if you are a 600 pounds Jersey cow grazing and you suddenly realize there is a one-ton lonely bison bull, who is tired of humping his male counterparts in the mud and who is giving you sweet looks from the other side of a fence that he can easily jump over, what are you supposed to do?

The Jersey cow is popular because of the quality of its dairy output, small size and high fertility rate. Offsprings of ordinary cattle and bison are sometimes called beefallo.

Monday, November 21, 2011


There comes a time when a man has to settle down. That’s what Cain the farmer told Abel the roamer, and when Abel did not listen, well, we all know what happened.

A few years ago, I found a job downtown in a heavily secured office with locks so fancy the young cat-burglar I once was would not have known how to break in.

I was shoveling words for pennies a bushel, and when the shoveling was done, there was still more to shovel, and I was told to shovel faster so I could make more money.

We all know that what everybody wants in life is more money, right?

My place of work was a few blocks away from the Federal Bank, the Treasury Board, and the Department of Finance high-rise buildings; all money-handling organizations in good standing.

At street-level it was a different story.

Some shops peddled dirt-cheap obsolete computer equipment, others were selling end-of-line clothing at rock-bottom prices.

There were a number of places where you could get an advance on your next pay cheque; the alternative to the established banking system when it failed to lend you money.

Vietnamese people were selling hot dogs out of little trucks. They would also do your nails, give you a soothing massage or sell used audio or video recordings and equipment for next to nothing. For a pittance they cooked a delicious soup called phô served in huge bowls.

I’ve always had problems with soup: I’m never quite sure if I should eat it or drink it.

They probably learned these useful skills on the tiny overcrowded boats they sailed over pirate-infested seas, escaping a country where life had just become too rough.

If you went south you’d hit the gay village, and if you went further south you would find rooming houses, crack houses, shooting galleries, dark alleys where anything could happen at any time of day or night.

All that within less than a mile from the country’s seat of power.

I went to work in a suit and a tie. For me, wearing a suit at work drew a line between my private life and my professional life. It was a statement reminding me that I am a complex dignified individual with many levels.

The first week a co-worker asked me: “Why do you dress like that?” The following week an administrator said to me: “You shouldn't dress like that.” On the third week the General Manager told me: “Stop dressing like that.”

From then on I went to work wearing jeans and a T-shirt. I did not need a statement of individuality anymore: it had been deeply and permanently engraved in my soul.

I also did not have a private life and a professional life either: I just had a life, which is already plenty.

One cold fall morning, I fell on the slippery sidewalk and ripped my pants. In the elevator at the office a co-worker asked me what happened. When I told her, she said: “You should learn to watch your step.”

I soon found out that in that work environment it was inappropriate to say “Good morning”, “Goodbye”, “Please” or “Thank you”. Smiling or joking was frowned upon.

For some of the people I worked with, the biggest treat in life was slowly chewing on pickled herring, washing it down with a glass of cheap white wine while staring into nothingness.

During all the years I worked there I was reminded regularly not to smoke in the restrooms.

As if I would ever do such a thing when there was a perfectly good sidewalk outside where I could indulge in one of my few talents.

It was while smoking on the street, leaning against a wall, that I met the most interesting characters.

There was that little Asian woman who would stand in doorways never saying a word. She had long tangled hair and was always dressed in a heavy winter coat that became mangier as the year went by. She was afraid of everybody and would start screaming anytime somebody offered her money or food.

There was one exception. From time to time, a Jamaican woman who ran a cheap clothing store would take the Asian lady inside and let her choose a new set of clothes... on the house. The Asian lady would always pick clothes of the brightest and cheeriest colors and inevitably, a few weeks later, when they had turned dirty and brown and black, the Jamaican lady would renew her wardrobe.

That’s when I was reminded that kindness still existed in this world.

An old lanky vagrant quickly learned that he could get a cigarette and some change whenever he saw me. He told me he was a former actor. In his youth the man had played Shakespeare on the greatest stages of the world. Then everything went wrong. He was enlisted to fight in the Greater Toronto Battle, driving tanks up Yonge Street alongside General Patton where his heroics made him rise to the rank of colonel but robbed him of his health.

Mental illness terrifies me.

If an event like the Greater Toronto Battle ever occurred outside the mind of a schizophrenic, tanks such as this Sherman M4A3E8 might have been used to cruise up Yonge Street. But exactly why anybody would want to take over Richmond Hill is a mystery to me. Maybe to play a nice round of golf?

Susan, a crack addict I befriended, told me that, one cold winter night, as she was sleeping on the floor in the lobby of an apartment building, a tenant woke her up and kicked her, shouting: “This is not your home!”

Later Susan found she could sleep in peace in the stairway on the tenth floor of a condo building under construction where the night watchman was lax in his rounds.

Do I have problems? I have no problems. Neither do you. Probably.

Henry Cyr is one of those characters I met in downtown Ottawa. He plays slide guitar by inserting a coffee mug on his stump. Here, he reminds us that stealing is like making a huge withdrawal from the karma bank. If you meet him, give him a couple of bucks; he might not spend it wisely but we don’t always either, do we?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


When I was young, prostates did not exist. Well at least, nobody talked about them.

In biology class, I learned that human beings were a bunch of entrails wrapped up in skin and supported by a bone structure set in motion by a muscular mass.

My teachers told me about the heart, the œsophagus, the stomach, the bowels (of course!) – the large and small intestine – the liver, the brain, the spleen and the pancreas, but never about the prostate.

On the other hand I was often told about a womb bearing some fruit that apparently was blessed.

Could it be that such blessed fruit was a prostate? No. It was impossible. But go figure: anything can happen when gods are involved.

The truth is the prostate is a gland that hides underneath the bladder, patiently keeping watch while producing a slightly caustic liquid through which valiant sperms will swim, while pursuing their reproductive duty. This fluid protects the sperm entering the acidic environment of the vagina.

A sperm is a tragic hero. In his quest for an egg that most of the time fails to show up, he has to fight and destroy his own weaker brothers.

Every instant of every day, entire battalions of these courageous soldiers are slaughtered while trying to accomplish their duty. If I am writing this story and if you are reading it, it is because one of these brave fratricidal and paradoxical champions, protected by a vaguely caustic liquid armour made by a prostate, successfully completed its mission.

I was in my teens the first time I heard about the prostate. My grandfather (the one with only three teeth) thought his prostate had gone awry when he relieved himself in the toilet after my grandmother used a blue disinfectant for the first time.

If water in your toilet turns this colour, don’t panic. Your prostate is still functional. The water is blue only because somebody cares about killing germs.
I realized then that a prostate can provoke a fearful laugh.

When a prostate ceases to work, manhood is at stakes. Man’s procreating role is compromised. Survival of the species is jeopardized. This is no ordinary fear. This is the ultimate terror: fear of extinction, of total collapse.

Laughing is a reflex that can defuse fear. With laughter we can boldly face threats of danger and doom.

In Movember gentlemen, grow a moustache... for fun. But remember it’s a symbolic gesture about the little mass of flesh in your groin that produces the ammonia without which we would not exist.
Movember is a portmanteau (for "Moustache" and "November"). In November men from everywhere in the world grow a moustache (sometimes to their girlfriend or wife great displeasure) to raise funds and public awareness towards male illnesses, for example prostate cancer.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The mess dinner

I was managing a versatile quartet: two girls, two guys playing mainly cello, violin, guitar and keyboards but also a slew of other instruments. All members had formal classical training. They were not virtuosos but they were young and they played accurately, on time, with feeling. I knew that after a few years on the road, meeting the right people, they could be up there with the stars.

I booked them a casual gig for a single malt scotch whisky tasting club. The clients would be real gentlemen and ladies having dinner at a naval officer’s mess hall after their annual fall golf tournament. Eighty people in their 30s and 40s, all professionals, doctors, lawyers, reporters, well educated and refined yet not stuck up: the ideal audience willing to pay more than the usual union rates.

As a plus, the venue was fantastic: high ceilings, oak-lined walls and pillars, just enough reverberation. The acoustics were perfect; it was a sound technician’s and a musician’s dream.

As I was helping my musicians set up in the afternoon I observed that the caterers were wearing the usual white uniforms but that the waiter and waitresses were wearing kilts, waist-high tunics, and knee-high socks.

One of the cooks told me that the evening was to have a Scottish theme and that they were serving Scotland’s traditional dish, haggis, for dinner.

Haggis is the minced heart, liver and lungs of a sheep mixed with onions, oatmeal, spices and fat, simmered in an inside-out sheep’s stomach. I know, it sounds disgusting but it’s not. It’s quite tasty, just think of it as Scottish sausage.

I am always amazed to see successful people not satisfied with their professional accomplishments to the point that they have to live a fantasy and pretend to be Scots.

At least they were not acting out being gangsters or bikers.

Tables, all dressed in thick white linen and fine dinnerware, were set up in a “U” shape around the room, the middle section would be used for people to mingle while having cocktails before the meal. The band was in a corner on a low stage.

When one of the caterer’s employees returned from a cigarette break saying: “The guests are arriving,” the band began playing Johann Pachelbel’s “Canon in D”.

The golfers entered, some wearing golf trousers with argyle socks, others were sporting kilts and everybody seemed to be in a good mood. All the ladies were wearing plaid of some kind and most of them wore dresses.

“These people sure take their Scotland seriously,” I thought as the band ended the German baroque number. I went to Jason, the band leader, and suggested they move to music more appropriate for the occasion, so they started to play the theme song of the movie Braveheart.

I like smart literate musicians who can adapt quickly to a situation.

As the guests were having cocktails reminiscing about their day on the golf links, the club’s president recalled: “I was so proud, on the front nine I only lost three balls! But on the back nine, I lost 22!” which made everybody laugh.

Men were talking golf equipment and business, sipping their whisky while women were busy chatting and drinking mostly gin tonics and Bloody Marys.

I noticed a striking redhead in a kilt and silk blouse who, because of an ill-adjusted pin on her kilt, was showing quite a bit of leg when she moved. She was talking and laughing with a handsome man who seemed to be in real estate. A bit further away, another man – who looked like a doctor – was glancing at her worriedly.

From my years working in less commendable establishments I have learned how to read a crowd. If trouble was to happen tonight, it would be from these three.

In the meantime, waiters and waitresses were walking amongst the guests holding large platters of amuse-bouche which are nothing but fancy and politically correct amuse-gueule. It is a delicacy any aspiring bourgeois or nouveau riche can look forward to.

Some of the guests were admiring photographs on the wall of prize-winning sheep and Shetland ponys. Apparently quite a few military officers who usually attended the mess hall had Scottish roots and enjoyed displaying the pride of their ancestors’ homeland.

However, today’s guests were not as classy as the gentlemen and ladies who normally frequented the hall and were making lewd comments about the attractiveness of the sheep and ponys, one going so far as to parody the Rolling Stones’ Get off of my cloud by singing: “Hey McLoud! Get off of my ewe!” as everybody laughed.

It takes many generations for the coarseness of peasantry to leave the genes of would-be aristocrats.

Scotsman, kilt, Shetland pony
Stereotypes are oversimplified conceptions or opinions that bear no factual relation to reality. However it is easy to make them and use them and that is why we love Monty Python so much. Nonetheless, when an artist decides to draw a picture of a grown Scotsman wearing a skirt and holding a pet pony, it is very hard not to think of stereotypes.

The band was now playing a version of Matty Groves, a most unfortunate choice as I watched the real estate salesman making obvious moves towards the delighted stunning redhead while her frankly annoyed doctor husband was looking at them.

Soon dinner was about to be served and the guests were taking their assigned places around the tables. It was quite a sight to see the waiters and waitresses in Scottish livery bringing the first haggis for the whisky tasting club’s president to cut as he started to recite solemnly Robert Burns’ Address to a haggis.

A proud Scotsman gives a perfect rendition of Robert Burns’ poem.

After the poetic performance, waiters and waitresses started rolling in more haggis on stainless steel carts to serve guests. At that moment, I noticed that the redhead’s husband had gotten up and was now having an animated discussion with the real estate salesman while his wife looked on with increasing uneasiness.

The real estate salesman tried to get up, the doctor pushed him back down on his chair, grabbed a steaming haggis nearby and smashed it on his face.

All hell broke loose. People got up trying to stop the two men who were now wrestling on the floor, pulling a tablecloth in the process, sending cutlery, china, mashed potatoes and turnip flying. The redhead was crying, the waiters and waitresses were looking at the caterer for advice while the band played on, which I thought was very professional of them.

There was much yelling and shouting but no need to call the police; after all these sophisticated people were used to settling their issues through their lawyers. When the belligerents left the building, the caterers started to clean up the mess hoping to be able to resume their service but the magic was gone. One by one guests silently left while the scotch whisky tasting club’s president sat alone at a table, sipping at a glass of Talisker with a bitter look on his face.

Monday, September 5, 2011


For Dick
Special thanks to Matthew and his Facebook friends for bringing back the memories

Kids should never disobey their parents even though in the end it becomes unavoidable if only for the sake of emancipation. It is part of growing up and finding our own identity.

We start life as little beings completely dependent on our parents or caretakers. They provide a warm and safe shelter, they feed us, they keep us dry through seasons and despite the whims of our digestive and urinary systems.

And they teach us basic skills. When and what to eat and drink; when, where and how to move around while controlling those pesky sphincters; how to get dressed for warm and cold weather.

Eventually we grow up, until we’re old enough to eventually wear out from too much living.

In the process of growing up as kids we conveniently forget that somebody taught us the basics and we only remember the practice time we spent on our own or with our peers perfecting our life skills. We ignore that we become the sum of the knowledge, the wisdom, the habits, good and bad, of our parents and their ancestors.

They say parents only die when their children die and even then, not really: they just become part of a more or less anonymous data bank from which their grandchildren, great-grandchildren and so on thoughtlessly draw information.

But I digress, let’s go back to emancipation.

At some point when we grow up, we develop desires and needs our parents forgot they once had. One of the needs my older brother and I discovered in our early teens took a very specific form that we knew our mother would not agree with: Barbarella, Queen of the Galaxy.

In the 60’s and early 70’s, we were raised on French comic books and magazines, at a time where the genre was swiftly acquiring its status as a valid form of literature. We were aware of Jean-Claude Forest’s Barbarella original serial comics and had seen some of the strips. When Roger Vadim turned the comics into a movie in 1968, casting a very pretty pretty Jane Fonda, his third wife, as the galactic heroine, my brother and I knew we had to see it.

Barbarella, naked shoulders, blond woman, torn dress, Jean-Claude Forest, Le terrain vague, 1964, cleavage
Jean-Claude Forest (1930-1998) was a French illustrator and writer who created the Barbarella character in the early 1960s. Published originally as serials in V-Magazine in 1962, Barbarella became a runaway best-seller translated in dozens of languages.

Unfortunately, the movie had not been a commercial success and did not linger in cinemas. This was many years before VCRs, DVDs or BitTorrent and it would take a long time before whomever picked movies to play on Canadian TV could see enough artistic value in such a film to broadcast it.

Yet, the movie had everything to appeal to 14 and 15 year-old boys: a Catchman who hunted children; flesh-eating dolls; Leathermen guards shooting laser rays; a bushy-eyebrow villain named Durand Durand who invented the Excessive Machine, a kind of organ designed to kill through orgasm; a blind angel who lived in a nest and re-discovered how to fly after being introduced to carnal pleasure by Barbarella; and a lesbian one-eyed unicorn tyrant (played by Anita Pallenberg, then Keith Richards’ companion).

And of course, there was Barbarella, wearing tight-fitting revealing clothing that kept being torn off so that she could change more often.

The sets and props were typical 60s pop-art. Andy Warhol’s influence was everywhere. Barbarella’s spaceship was made of plywood, rubber and plastic, materials that didn’t burn out plunging through the atmosphere in 1968. The floor, ceiling and walls of the cockpit were covered with shaggy carpeting since back then allergies did not exist and mildew did not cause respiratory problems.

Times certainly have changed.

You can picture our excitement when my brother found out in an underground newspaper that a small theatre would be showing the movie one time only on a Friday at 11 PM.

But there was a problem: this was past our curfew and our mother would never allow us to go out at night to the shady part of town where the cinema showing the erotic movie was located.

We decided to sneak out of the house when my mother was sleeping.

So there we were, lying in bed with our clothes on, listening to my mother’s breathing in her room, impatiently waiting for her to fall asleep, fearing her reaction if she caught us leaving the house or worse if she got up in the middle of the night to find we were not in bed.

When you’re 14, disobedience is quite exciting.

Finally my brother whispered “let’s go!”. Carrying our shoes in our hands, we tiptoed our way to the door, careful not to cause the floor to creak and hoping that the door lock would give way quietly, that the door would open silently.

Outside we sat on the steps of the porch to put our shoes on and walked away without a word. My brother and I had become Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn on our way to spend an evening with the Queen of the Galaxy before she became an anti-war activist, a feminist, a fitness video guru and a born-again Christian.

Barbarella, DVD, Queen of the Galaxy, Roger Vadim, Jane Fonda, Anita Pallenberg
Before the advent of VCRs in the 1980s, a movie could be headlined at the same theatre for months. When video cassettes appeared on the market, there was an outcry from the industry saying that it would be the death of movie theatres. Thirty years later, video cassettes are gone after being replaced by DVDs which are in the process of being supplanted by films in the Cloud. Movie theatres are still around.

Once on the bus, my brother and I discussed nervously how we could explain our absence to our mother if she ever found out. So it was with a sense of impending doom that we entered the near-empty movie theatre.

Then the lights went out, the curtains parted, the opening credits started floating around, Barbarella removed her spacesuit at 24 frames per second in zero gravity... and I forgot that I even had a mother.

When the movie was over, my brother and I realized it was too late for buses to run and we ended up walking the five miles home in the cool spring night.

If my mother ever noticed our little escapade, she never mentioned anything. Maybe because after all she knew about the importance of emancipation.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Don’t mess with the Captain!

We all need an island where we can rest our soul from everyday troubles, where we can get away from the trifling hassles of life. We all need a place to hang out and lick our wounds.

There was a lounge I used to go to that catered to a disparate clientele: young and old, wealthy and poor, people from the oldest Canadian Scottish ancestry to newly arrived South American immigrants.

Past the high stools by the bar, there was a couch and a couple of armchairs in a corner. The walls were decked with paintings from local artists who usually favoured earth tones.

Hanging from the high ceilings, old banged up musical instruments – a tuba, a trumpet, a French horn, even a sousaphone – were vigilantly keeping an eye on patrons. Over on one side, a smashed-up double-bass kept guard beside a piano.

sousaphone, etching, brass, marching band, musical instrument
The sousaphone owes its name to American bandmaster John Philip Sousa who was looking for an alternative to the hélicon for his marching band. The sousaphone is from the tuba family and is usually in the key of lower B flat. It is used mostly in marching bands but also in concert orchestras and jazz bands.

All these instruments were nothing but decorative elements. In reality, a couple of nights a week the lounge hosted live jazz bands whose members be-bopped on well-maintained instruments into the wee hours of the night.

But Friday night was DJ night, and from 8:00 PM to midnight a young Brazilian DJ would play house music. After midnight, he was replaced by guest DJs who would move the crowd into more hardcore spheres.

I liked Friday nights. I would arrive early, find a place at the end of the bar, order an anisette for starters, take out a book and read until things got too loud or too hectic.

That particular night I think I was reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.

Around 10 P.M. – I was now drinking scotch and soda – three ladies in their early 30s wearing peasant blouses, flared skirts and flat shoes made a noticeable and lively entrance.

Looking around, they spotted the three empty stools to my right and aimed for them.
I kept reading, vaguely aware of their chatter, when the closest lady, a blonde with long braided hair and dreamy brown eyes asked me what I was drinking.

— I’m drinking whisky and soda, may I offer you one? I replied, ever the gentleman.

— I hate whisky, she giggled. Jack Daniel is a bad, bad man! He makes me do things against my will! I’d rather have Captain Morgan: he may be a pirate but at least he’s a gentleman.

So I asked the barmaid to bring my new friend a rum and cola (what they call a Cuba libre in the Caribbean), and we started to get acquainted.

Her name was Parsley and she and her two friends (Sage and Rosemary) worked at The Castle, a restaurant with a medieval theme where clients dressed in period costumes would gorge themselves with fat, salty and sweet food to forget about the dullness of life while yearning about times gone by.

I could relate to them somewhat as I could relate to the bubbly maidservant who was gracing me with her company, occasionally brushing her bosom against me.

She was funny and I enjoyed her high spirits. Sage and Rosemary however were looking at us with concern.

After Parsley downed her third Cuba libre, Rosemary scolded her, urging her to watch herself. Parsley just shrugged and turned towards me, taking my arm and telling her friends that I was the most well-behaved gentleman she could meet tonight.

Her friends rolled their eyes and suggested going to another bar.

— You go, she told them, I’m staying.

I knew better than to get involved in an argument that wasn’t mine so I returned temporarily to my drink and book, keeping distractedly aware of the disagreement unfolding beside me.

When Parsley’s friends left, she turned and looked at me saying: “I need my captain.”

“It’s all right, I’m here,” I replied and as I ordered another rum and cola for her, the barmaid looked at me and winked.

We kept drinking, talking, laughing and cuddling until closing time. The DJ put on one last song, Parsley and I got up only to realize we were so drunk we would be a road hazard if we drove. By George! We would have been a threat walking on the sidewalk!

So we just stood by the entrance of the bar holding each other.

Soon a taxicab drove by and I flagged it down. We decided to go to Parsley’s place. She lived in a high-rise downtown. When we got there, I looked up at the tower then down at Parsley’s long golden braid and I felt like I was in a brother Grimm’s tale. Still very tipsy, we took the elevator to the 20th floor and entered Parsley’s apartment.

In the subdued light I could make out velvet burgundy drapes hanging over the balcony doors and a lace-covered coffee table in front of a satin couch. One wall was covered with an impressive collection of medieval weapons: a crossbow, daggers, swords, rapiers, arrows.

Parsley certainly takes the dark ages seriously I thought.

— “I need to freshen up,” she said as she left for the washroom. “There’s beer in the fridge!”

I was drawn to the armory wall. I walked unsteadily towards it. I felt like I travelled through time and the liquor I drank all evening was not helping me staying grounded. Everything started to waver and I was afraid I was going to fall.

There was a sword leaning against the wall. I used it as a cane to support myself, resting one foot on a small wooden keg beside it.

That’s when I felt Parsley’s hands reaching from behind to hug me as she whispered: “My captain... Oooh, my captain...”

Captain Morgan, Original Spiced Rum, pose, keg, sabre, pirate
Everybody loves the Captain!.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The private riot

Unless he is a member of an established classical orchestra or some other kind of steady act, the gigging musician’s life is far less glamorous than what people generally expect.

I once belonged to a two-man band that performed in small bars, taverns, pubs and restaurants. Every weekend we lugged a sound system, musical instruments, bags of cables, microphones and other paraphernalia to venues in order to entertain a sometimes ecstatic audience.

Most of the time the crowd took us as a welcome annoyance.

One of the bars we played had an Irish theme. The Rose of Tralee was located in a working-class neighbourhood that was in the process of being gentrified. Small and cozy, it could only sit 50 people, yet boasted 30 different kinds of beer on tap.

gentrification, art deco, Grand Central, balcony, pillars, renovated old building
Gentrification is the process of turning a working-class neighbourhood into a middle-class haven. First, you buy an old textile factory and you evict the tenants. Then you turn the upper floors into snazzy lofts and condos. Finally you install quaint boutiques and cafés at street level. In a short time, municipal taxes should skyrocket and resale value should increase exponentially transforming you into a nouveau riche.

Connor, the 28-year-old bartender, was a friendly, handsome and muscular man who regaled patrons with stories of his bout as an amateur boxer.

The clientele was a mixture of more or less successfully retired people, upwardly-mobile young professionals with a taste for the exotic, and a healthy dose of pure white trash.

We played old Irish and Celtic songs arranged to sound like pop, punk and rock music.

That particular evening was going well. The audience was participating, making special requests from time to time. Connor was mixing Irish car bombs for customers who seemed to be having a great time.

shot glass, Irish Cream, Irish Mist, stout, pint, Guinness, Irish Car Bomb
The Irish car bomb is a beer cocktail. Pour Irish cream in a shot glass over which you float some Irish mist. Delicately rest the full shot glass at the bottom of a half-pint of Irish stout. Drink quickly before everything curdles. Make sure you don’t knock your teeth out with the shot glass.

At a quarter to two, as we were ready to wrap up the evening with a reggae version of Danny Boy, with slightly modified lyrics involving the consumption of weed (“fine herbs from the South of France” as we called it), about 15 people came loudly into the pub, ordering some $300 worth of beer. They were already quite inebriated.

We finished the song with wild applause from the newcomers, said thank you and good night, when one guy who had just come in asked us to play some more:

— You see, we like to have fun and we’re all from the same family: these are my brothers, this is my mother, over there at the bar that’s my sister and her cousin with my uncle, and way back there with the bartender, those are my cousins... HEY GUYS! GET SOME SHOOTERS FOR THE BAND!

So we had a shot of sambuca and started to play a rockabilly version of The rocky road to Dublin.

They all got up to dance, one son was dancing with his mother apparently trying to break every current moral standard. My music partner and I looked at each other, shaking our heads. Two of the cousins were pretending to waltz together while the uncle was dancing with the niece and arguing with her brothers.

At the end of the song, they wanted more music but it was already the last call, so we said we were first going outside for a smoke, hoping that a break would calm them down.

“A smoke? Excellent idea!” said one of the brothers, and the whole family headed out to the patio. I turned off the sound system and my partner and I went for a cigarette on the street.

As soon as we were outside, we heard a commotion. The family members had started a brawl and were throwing plastic patio furniture at each other. Worried about our equipment, we immediately went back inside to see Connor locking the door to the patio and calling the bar owner over the phone. The owner told him he was on his way and to call the police.

We went back outside in time to see the uncle sprawled on the floor. Two of the brothers were spreading his legs and another was holding his arms while his niece was kicking him viciously in the groin. Cousins and brothers were groping at each other ripping their shirts off their backs. There was blood, spilled beer, broken glass and overturned furniture.

People at a neighbouring bar ran over, wanting to join in the heat. One of the brothers stood up and started to wave at them, screaming:


At that moment, a black Mercedes screeched to a halt in front of the bar. The owner of the Rose of Tralee jumped out of the car with a bouncer and rushed inside.

Then a police cruiser arrived. Quickly assessing the situation, the officers immediately called for support. They went in the bar and tried to calm down the owner who wanted to go on the patio and teach the punks a lesson. The owner wouldn’t listen so the constables arrested him, handcuffed him and took him outside.

Within minutes six patrol cars and a paddy wagon had joined in while the violent uproar went on. The male and female officers huddled to discuss a strategy. Finally, two officers were designated to go to the patio, restrain the belligerents one at a time with tie-wraps, and bring them back in front of the Rose of Tralee to be lined up lying face down on the street.

coloured tie-wraps
The tie-wrap was invented in 1958 as a binding device to organize electrical wires and cables in aircrafts. Soon enough other uses were found and tie-wraps are now popular as cheap restraints in many countries.

As we were observing all that from outside, I saw one of the brothers, shirtless and bloodied, helping his mother jump over the patio fence so they could leave before being arrested. The uncle was lying on the floor, seemingly unconscious and holding his crotch.

Within half an hour the law officers had gathered all the remaining hooligans and were kneeling on the street to interrogate them.

My partner and I decided this might be a good time to tear down our equipment, gather up our gear, and leave.

When we went to Connor, the bar tending amateur boxer, to collect our wages, he was sobbing uncontrollably beside his cash register.

Samedi prochain : médecine dentaire cosmopolite

Monday, July 4, 2011


My text had to be delivered by close of business Friday. Thursday night I was still torturing my laptop’s keyboard to make the deadline on time.

The article had to be original but I could not come up with new ideas. It was my third draft and still the story was not going where it was supposed to go. What is a creator to do when his work will not follow the mind of its maker?

Finally I decided to search countless pages of notes saved on hard disks, diskettes and tapes. Using an old Macintosh SE30, I dug through the innards of diskettes for 20-year old back-ups. Every time I found something reusable I transferred it to the laptop by modem.

And the clock kept ticking...

I butchered away through unpublished stories trying to make mine again the virtues of my past creativity. I chewed ideas that were too raw, making them fit for human consumption. It was messy but it was coming along...

At 3:00 AM, the laptop was overheating. I could feel the CPU boiling under the keyboard.

Then the computer started making strange noises: “Aarrrruuuh! Aarrrruuuh! Aarrrruuuh!”

I knew what it was: the bearings of the internal cooling fan were giving up. I had to turn off the laptop until I could replace the fan assembly.

laptop, cooling fan, cooling copper pipe, insides of a computer
A computer’s integrated circuits generate heat that would build up quickly without dissipating devices. In this picture, the copper pipe draws heat from the CPU and motherboard for the cooling fan to expel.

I opened the back of the laptop, removed the faulty cooling fan, and went to bed wondering where I would find parts for a five-year-old laptop.

First thing in the morning, I took a cab to a computer store that sold end-of-line equipment. The owner was not selling spare parts but suggested another store that might be able to help.

The fellow in the second store’s service department told me he would order the part but it could take a few weeks for delivery. “No can do, I said, I need it this morning.”

After some thought the young man said: “There’s a shop with which we sometimes do business that locates hard to find parts. It's far but it’s accessible by bus. I have to warn you though: this is a ‘peculiar’ kind of business.” I got the address and the directions, and hopped on a bus.

When I got off the bus, I was in the middle of a field. There was a wooded area behind me. I read the directions: “Go under the bridge and walk for five minutes until you see an unpaved pathway to your right.”

I looked around; there was an overpass to my right. I figured that was the “bridge”. I went under it and soon I saw a trail leading through an overgrown area. I followed it for awhile until I found myself in the middle of an industrial park.

The address was 1245 Industrial Road. I guess the urban designer who came up with that street name felt as creative as I was the previous night, tearing off bits and pieces from old texts.

Twelve-forty-five Industrial Road was a one-story building with grey siding behind an unkempt front yard. I rang the bell and waited.

A lanky young man with a shaved head, a nose ring and gouged earlobes opened the door. His bare arms were tattooed from shoulder to wrist. For some reason I thought of Queequeg, the Polynesian harpooner in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

steamship, 3-mast, sperm whale
Moby Dick was a vindictive sperm whale chased by the equally spiteful captain Ahab. Native harpooners were often used in whaling expeditions. Europeans and Americans prejudiced against natives sometimes depicted them as cannibals. However documented evidence indicates that colonialists resorted to cannibalism for survival. The British members of Sir John Franklin’s expedition set to discover the Northwest passage in 1848, or the survivors of the wreck of the French naval frigate Méduse off the coast of Mauritania in 1816 are good examples.

I explained what I was looking for. Without a word he let me in and left me to wait in a large damp room that reeked of mildew. The carpet was dirty and there were gutted out computers piled up all around.

Through a door I could see in another room two black men busy dismembering desktop computers on a conference table. There were electronic parts everywhere.

Then it struck me: these guys made a living cannibalizing old computers.

brush, solvant, tin can, mechanical part
A soldier is cleaning a part he just cannibalized from a tank during WW II.

Cannibalizing is such a gruesome word to describe an activity that is actually environmentally-friendly: re-using components to prolong the life of dying equipment and delay the moment parts are sent to landfills.

I guess doctors do the same when they take organs from cadavers to extend or improve the life of their patients.

Anyway, since the FBI unreluctantly resorted to a cannibal to solve their problem in Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs, I figured it was OK if I did the same.

When the tattooed, shaved and pierced metal faced gentleman came back, I showed him the fan assembly. He took me into another room filled with shelving stacked with old laptop computers, dug out one from the middle of a pile and removed its fan.

I was back in business...

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The hippie, the network administrator and the Monopoly board...

Cathy was a short, slim, attractive, 42 year old brunette hippie in glasses who wore funny hats, a bit like Annie Hall.

We hooked up at the students’ pub of the university – where she was taking philosophy classes and I was booking bands – after having a passionate discussion about Arthur Schopenhauer’s values.

I argued that Schopenhauer brought misery to his own life because of his negative frame of mind, she insisted it was impossible because good old Arthur liked poodle dogs.

poodle, dog
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) was a German philosopher whose pessimistic approach to life rendered his relationship with humankind difficult. He took solace in the company of poodle dogs. According to some, this led to tensions between the German and the French which provoked some of the bloodiest conflicts of the 19th and 20th centuries in Europe. Image: luigi diamanti /

Cathy told me that, several months before, she had separated from her husband of 20 years. Together, they had two beautiful children, a boy, 12, and a girl, 9, who were the sunshine of her life.

However, we live in difficult times. Her ex-husband, Günther, a network administrator, had lost his job with a large computer hardware manufacturer that closed its doors shortly after the technology bubble burst.

He was now working – though for a more frugal income – with a smaller company that maintained data centres for local clients. He worked on call and often had to go on site at any hour of the day or night to fix technical problems.

Because of this, Cathy and Günther agreed to keep living in separate rooms in the family home until they found a purchaser. They would then divvy up the family’s estate to move on with their lives.

I am always impressed when people act in civilized ways despite life’s challenges.

One Wednesday morning after Cathy spent the night at my place, she found out her cell phone battery had run out. I suggested she used my phone to call the nanny at home, inquire about the children and make plans for the day.

After this was done, we had breakfast, grateful that life made our paths cross. Then, I walked her to her car, we kissed tenderly and promised to get in touch and see each other again before the weekend.

On Thursday, Cathy called saying that a cousin invited her and her children to spend a few days at a cottage on the slopes of a trendy ski resort. She would be back by Sunday and would be delighted if we could spend Sunday evening together.

As much as I value the virtue of negating desire, anytime a lovely lady is delighted to spend an evening with me, I am delighted too.

Later that night, I received another phone call:

— “May I speak to Cathy?”

Surprised to hear a man calling for Cathy at my place I asked to whom I was speaking.

— “This is Günther, her husband...”

There is nothing more exciting than receiving a call from your lover’s ex-husband.

deer, etching, mountain, antlers, buck
A husband whose wife cheats on him is said to be "wearing the horns" because, as a horn-bearing animal does not see the horns on its forehead, the cuckold does not see the infidelity of his mate while it is obvious to all. The shame of wearing the horns is not related to the unfaithfulness of your companion as much as to not knowing what everybody else does. Wearing the horns has always been quite common throughout human history. I've worn them, you probably have as well...

“I would appreciate if you keep away from my wife,” said Günther. “Do you enjoy breaking up couples and messing up their family life? Now, let me speak to Cathy, I know she’s there.”

As confused as I felt, I tried to explain that it was not the way things were, at least that was not the way Cathy explained her marital situation to me. I told him I had no affinity with the traditional backdoor man, in fact I kind of despised weak characters who went after married women.

There was a long silence at the end of the line, then I heard a painful sob: Günther was crying...

— “I know I could have done better,” he said, “I know it’s not a sufficient reason but I can make it up, I... I...” And he began to weep uncontrollably.

It’s always embarrassing to listen to a man cry especially since I felt somewhat responsible for his breakdown, yet I felt helpless.

I tried to explain again that it was an honest mistake on my part, that I would discuss the situation with Cathy next time I’d talk to her...

— “It’s useless,” he said, “without her, my life is over, I’d rather end it...”

Self-pity is the worst companion you can pick: I’ve seen its devastating effects. That’s why I worry when someone talks about hastily ending his or her days, especially when the future of young children is at stake.

So I said:

— “Listen, you’re upset, it’s understandable, but don’t do anything foolish. Let’s talk it out.”

And then, some crazy idea came to my mind:

— “Are you doing anything right now? How about coffee? You know that little café off Main Street? The Bitter Cup? Let’s meet over there in, say, half an hour?”

Günther needed some convincing, but I finally got him to agree. I figured if I could get him up and out of the house to go somewhere else, maybe he would forget about his crazy ideas for awhile.

So we met at the café, he talked for a long time, I listened, and in the end I convinced him to postpone any harsh decision until I talked to Cathy.

Sunday afternoon, Cathy called on her way back to town. After the usual enquiries about the weekend, I said:

— “Cathy, we need to talk about Günther...”

I explained the phone call I got from her husband, the discussion we had, and his frame of mind.

— “The son of a bitch! He had no right to call you! How did he get your number?”

I told her he picked it up from the call display after she called home using my phone.

— “You should never have made me use your phone! What were you thinking? Do you understand what I will have to go through now because of your lack of judgment?”

— “Cathy, I...”

But it was too late, she had already hung up. I called back; her phone was off.

Around supper time, the phone rang; it was Günther.

— “May I speak to Cathy please?”

I told him Cathy wasn’t here.

— “She came in earlier, dropped the kids and left," said Günther. "She was furious and she’s not answering her phone. What happened?”

— “I don’t know, I lied, maybe she didn’t have a good weekend at her cousin’s cottage...”

— “Anyway, I have the kids now and I just got an emergency at one of the data centres. The nanny won’t be here until tomorrow morning. I don’t know what to do.”

I suggested he’d take the kids to relatives, friends or a neighbour.

— “We don’t have any relatives or friends in town and I don’t know any neighbours.”

And then, after a moment, he said:

— “I feel awkward to ask, but could you...”

The idea of babysitting the kids of the man who was cuckolded by me was not appealing, but then, what was I supposed to do given his depressed state of mind?

So I said: “Okay, bring the kids over, I’ll watch them tonight.”

Günther dropped the kids at my apartment.

I made popcorn, got out the Monopoly board, and we played the game of acquiring other people’s property, coveting assets, collecting wages every time we passed “Go”, and sometimes ending up in jail.

I watched the kids fall asleep on the couch and was relieved when Günther came to pick them up at 3:00 AM.

I never heard from Cathy nor Günther again.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Meanwhile at the ranch...

Toronto is the largest city in Canada and I always thought it was one of the most constipated until I found a bookstore on Queen Street that made a point to carry at all times the complete works of Charles Bukowski.

Charles Bukowski, Pulp, Ham on Rye, Love is a Dog from Hell, Hollywood, The Most Beautiful Woman in Town, Open All Night, books, Black Sparrow Press
Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) was an American alcoholic, gambler and very prolific poet and writer. Almost 20 years after his demise a new book of his is still being published every year.
I was in the Queen City to attend a music video awards event back in the days when music video stations’ main programming was actually music videos.

I was managing a band and the record label with which they were signed thought it would be a unique networking opportunity.

The streets were crowded around the music video station. The police had installed barricades along the sidewalks to separate onlookers from artists a bit like they do at the zoo to keep visitors from feeding the animals.

The gathering was denser at the check-in gate for guests. I waited for my turn to be let in.

I felt like I was at a corral where they assemble cattle before a stampede. Staffers were busy talking on cellphones and walkie-talkies. Some looked happy and excited, others looked worried and I was dreading the moment those would get out the cattle prods.

Finally, we began to move in the studio.

The place was full with the usual attendees for such a function: music critics, record company executives, video producers, would-be, have-been and never-will-be musical performers, actors, venue owners, band managers, and of course a slew of jet-setters and beautiful people who would look good on camera during the live broadcast and the endless reruns.

Past the buffet tables and bar laid out in the main studio and through a door on to the other side of the building, a huge stage was set up in the parking lot enclosed with a chain link fence for the occasion. Tall towers had been erected in the middle and back of the lot for spotlights and cameras.

Veejays were rushing to interview video artists and performers before the show. Deejays were pumping out techno music; roadies and technicians were making last minute adjustments; dancers in fishnet stockings and low-riding leather skirts were warming up backstage, and the whole area felt as if it was ready to explode.

The video station’s General Manager spotted me and came to greet me.

— “So glad you could make it,” he yelled. “We’re going to have a blast tonight! Did they give you your coupons for the bar?” he added, handing me a roll of tickets to keep me lubricated for a week.

I wandered around the stage area when a cute blonde in Daisy Dukes and a red and white checkered top tied up high over her bare stomach asked me:

— “They say Madonna is going to be here tonight, is it true?”

— “That’s what I heard,” I lied, doubting Madonna would leave her snazzy London spots to attend a PR event in a small market like Canada.

— “That would be so awesome!” she said.

Then I felt a hand on my butt and heard a male voice say:

— “Hey cowboy, looking for a good time?”

I turned around and recognized the bass player from the Tailgaters, an up-and-coming indie band whose music was influenced by Korn and Hole.

I grabbed his wrist, removed firmly his hand from my ass and said: “Yes, but not with you: with her,” pointing at Daisy Duke who had already moved on to other interests.

My eardrums were quickly swelling from the music so I went inside for a drink.

As I was standing in front of a salad bar crumbling under freshly cut veggies, fruits and condiments – including a ranch dressing fountain – I realized the bass player had followed me.
ranch dressing fountain, Hidden Valley Ranch
A ranch dressing fountain. Ranch dressing was first commercialized by the Hidden Valley Ranch, a dude ranch near Santa Barbara, California, in 1954. The Hidden Valley Ranch brand was purchased in the 1970’s by a bleach manufacturer.

— “You’re a nice man, but you seem uptight,” he said, “I could give you a massage that would really loosen you up.”

The words “uptight” and “loosen up” uttered by a Tailgater made me cringe. But when he put his hand on my shoulder, that was too much: I moved away hastily, stumbling in the process and knocking over the salad bar as I fell down.

Baby spinach, romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, celery sticks, strips of green, red and yellow peppers went flying. The ranch dressing fountain toppled and, as it collapsed, covered me in sweet, fat and salty sauce.

The security guys rushed over with their cattle prods in seconds. The Tailgater had conveniently vanished in the commotion.

I was summarily escorted off the premises. As the two heavily-built bouncers were dragging me through the crowd to the police cruiser, I heard two people say:

— “It’s a faggot who tried to assault one of the Tailgaters’ band members.”

— “Gee, they should let the fans in instead of inviting these homos, we’d never cause trouble like that!”


Now, when a waitress asks me what kind of dressing I’d like on my salad, I always say:

— “Vinegar, just plain vinegar.”

I met these two guys from Bopp Core Productions on Stickam about a year ago. Obviously they haven't been traumatized by ranch dressing the way I was. Check them out on YouTube.

Samedi prochain : La prostate, vous connaissez?