Holy, holy, holy

I remember this like it happened this morning. I was 17. My girlfriend Dory and i were walking in a park near my home in Montreal’s west island. It was after supper, the fall evening warm and at that stage just before darkness. The boards of the hockey rinks had already been set up, waiting for the first freeze.

We were walking hand in hand, talking. There was a pause. I was usually more careful about what i said out loud, even back then. But for some reason i just blurted it out, a kind of intimate confession. “Sometimes,” i said, “i feel holy.” And it was true: At times a distinct feeling of holiness washed over me, more like a warm breeze than a blinding light, and i just knew without having to know that this was something called holiness and it was a gift, gratis, from the universe. It felt like something very special, but i never talked about it until i uttered that one sentence to Dory. I’ve never written about it since, until now.

Dory, bless her, laughed — not meanly — and poked fun at me. She thought i was trying to be either funny or pretentious. To my surprise i didn’t mind the laughter. I found i hadn’t really expected her, or anybody for that matter, to understand what was a private matter — private not because it’s personal, but because it’s incommunicable. Nothing more was said and the moment passed.

So too, gradually, did my spells of holiness. I didn’t feel that way at all after i entered university, or when i began to work and travel in the world. Too much else to do, i suppose: no time or importance for holiness.

But lately, that feeling has been visiting me again. Not often, and i don’t even remember exactly where or when. But i distinctly remember recognizing the feeling as the same one i was talking about back on the teenaged walk. And i’m glad it has begun to visit me again. Makes me think all this seeking is worthwhile.


Toss wisdom and holiness onto the garbage heap
and everyone will be better off.


A 5-cent story

A woman drives to work in Montreal, on a day like any other. At an intersection near her apartment she stops at a red light and a squeegee kid approaches the car and cleans the windshield. He’s in his late teens, maybe early twenties, and though he looks a little rough around the edges he doesn’t look like a bad kid. She’s seen him a few times before and she never gave him anything, but this time she decides to. All she’s got in the ashtray is a nickel, so she gives him that. He’s not impressed; probably he’s even a bit insulted.

The kid has made this his regular squeegee corner and from that day on she sees him often, almost every day. And every time now, she gives him a nickel. Why a nickel? She figures that it’s something, at least, but it’s not enough for him to go out and buy drugs with.

It goes on for weeks, day after day, weekdays, weekends – whenever they happen to meet at the intersection. She gets rolls of nickels at the bank and keeps them in her car. When he sees her car at the intersection, he heads straight over to clean her windshield and claim his nickel. It’s like they’re friends now; it has become their little joke.

One day she has some time to spare, and maybe he looks a little rougher than usual, so she rolls down the window, gives him a nickel and says, “Would you like me to take you to McDonalds for a meal?”

He hardly hesitates a second before he says, “Yes, I’d like that very much.”

So he gets in, squeegee and all, and they drive to the restaurant for something to eat. They get to talking about his situation, which isn’t a good one, and the woman says, “Would you like some help?”

They talk about that for a while, and then the woman takes out her cell phone and calls a friend of hers who works in a halfway house. Arrangements are made.

After that she doesn’t see him at the intersection anymore, and soon she pretty much forgets about him. The nickels in her car are eventually swept into her purse and spent.

Three months later she’s walking through a mall and a young man walks up to her. She hardly recognizes him, away from the intersection, and he looks a lot different, much more presentable. He recognizes her, though. He has a job now, he says. He has a place to live. And he has something for her, something he’s been carrying around for weeks. He pulls a roll of nickels out of his pocket and gives it to her. They have a good laugh. And then they go on with their lives, feeling a little better about things.


The woman is my sister, Rhonda, whose open-hearted acceptance of everybody, foibles and all, is an inspiration to me. I wish i had the savvy that could keep a five-cent joke going for that long, and know that a nickel is sometimes much more than a nickel. She’s an artist of life.

Spook Country

I recently bought and read seminal Vancouver author William Gibson‘s latest, Spook Country. Gibson is one of the few authors i make a point of following. S.C.’s a good read, if a little gearhead and plodding — the man’s a fanatic for detail, too much detail. But he still has a hawk’s eye for the telling social insight and the signature ideas of the time.

I always collect quotes from books i read (that’s why the pages are always turned down) and here are a few that imrigued me — especially the “cold civil war” and the “fuckedness index.” Emphases mine.

  • He’d once dated a woman who liked to say that the windows of army surplus stores constituted hymns to male powerlessness. (p.19)
  • Alejandro looked over his knees. “Carlito said there is a war in America.”
    “A war?”
    “A civil war.”
    “There is no war in America.”
    “When grandfather helped found the DGI, in Havana, were the Americans at war with the Russians?”
    “That was the ‘cold war.'”
    Alejandro nodded, his hands coming up to grip his knees. “A cold civil war.” (p.47)
  • The most interesting ways of looking at the GPS grid, what it is, what we do with it, what we might be able to do with it, all seemed to be being put forward by artists. Artists or the military. That’s something that tends to happen with new technologies generally: the most interesting applications turn up on the battlefield, or in a gallery.
  • A nation … consists of its laws. A nation does not consist of its situation at a given time. If an individual’s morals are situational, that individual is without morals. If a nation’s laws are situational, that nation has no laws, and soon isn’t a nation. (p.139)
  • Cities, in Milgrim’s experience, had a way of revealing themselves in the faces of their inhabitants, and particularly on their way to work in the morning. There was a sort of basic fuckedness index to be read, then, in faces that hadn’t yet encountered the reality of whatever they were on their way to do. By this standard, Milgrim thought, scanning faces and body language as Brown drove, this place [Vancouver] had an oddly low fuckedness index. (p.262)

Feel good about politics

I know i really shouldn’t be posting forwarded-email junk, but i can’t resist just this once.

Want to feel better about things? Want to start each day with a positive outlook?

  1. Fire up your computer and open a new file.
  2. Save it with the name “Stephen Harper”.
  3. Send it to the Recycle Bin.
  4. Your PC will ask, Do you really want to get rid of Stephen Harper?
  5. Click Yes!

There, now. Feel better?