This has been all over everything for the last couple of days.For the record, David Wilkins, in a interview with CBC radio about this time last year, did not know what the capital of Canada was. His response, something along the lines of: I'm sure it will be covered in my briefing sessions. Freaking moron from one of the Carolinas. South, I think.
I lived in the States for ten years. I get to diss him.
I'm also all ingenue excited about this election because it's the first time I'll be voting in about fifteen years (having lived in the States for ten).
Not that I'm a Martin supporter. I would so vote Bloc - but fat chance they'll run a candidate in a West Toronto riding.
Unrepentant Martin refused to take dictation from the United States
Wed Dec 14,11:56 AM ET
RICHMOND, B.C. (CP) - An unrepentant Paul Martin said Wednesday he "will not be dictated to" by the United States as he stood his ground in an increasingly testy exchange with American officials.
"I am not going to be dictated to as to the subjects that I should raise," Martin said in Richmond, B.C., as he visited a sawmill. "I will make sure that Canada speaks with an independent voice now, tomorrow and always, and you should demand nothing less from your prime minister."
Martin's remarks were in response to questions, but there was no mistaking his determination to make his case to voters on Canada-U.S. relations.
He underscored his refusal to take dictation from Washington three times during his encounter with reporters.
The jousting is the latest in what has become a running skirmish between the prime minister and David Wilkins, the U.S. ambassador to Canada.
On Tuesday, Wilkins urged Martin, even though he didn't name him directly, to stop what he considered U.S.-bashing.
"It may be smart election-year politics to thump your chest and criticize your friend and your No. 1 trading partner constantly," Wilkins said in a speech to the Canadian Club.
"But it is a slippery slope, and all of us should hope that it doesn't have a long-term impact on the relationship."
On Wednesday, Wilkins said the speech was not delivered off the cuff.
"I didn't wake up yesterday and decide to do it," he said. "Over a series of days I thought about it and decided it was something that needed to be said
What the day ended up being was the last in Josh and Josie’s marriage, but it did not start out that way. It started out as a plan to take the children out for breakfast.
Josh, Richard and I that morning stood in a triangle by the coffeepot in Josh and Josie’s kitchen, its drip in tune with the rain popping against the kitchen windows. They lived in the country near the town of Hemmingford, minutes north of the US border and an hour’s drive south of Montreal where I lived with Richard and our son, Jay. Outside the window were grizzly stretches of farmers’ fields, cloud-covered and rain-soaked. Richard and I had planned this as our last visit for the year before the weather moved deeper into fall and fell into winter.
"My littles are ready." Josh said. His younger two children were romping with Jay in the playroom off the kitchen.
"We should wake up Anastasie," I said.
"Let her sleep." Josh said.
"I promised her."
"She could care less about breakfast. Compared to sleeping in? Are you kidding me? She’s thirteen, remember."
"And it would be more practical to leave her," Richard piped up. "With three children, we only need one car."
As long as we strap the extra adult to the roof, I snorted inside myself. I could not say it out loud in front of Josh who thought I had settled for a moron in Richard because I wanted a child.
"You can talk circles around him," he had once sneered. "Hell, you can talk circles around me and I’m a journalist."
"Which would make you dumber than you say he is."
"You know what I mean."
"He’s kind and gentle and considerate."
"And a great father."
"And a wimp."
"He rocks in bed," I had sneered, outraged by Josh’s arrogance. "He and my g-spot are the best of friends. He knows my number and dials it every fucking time."
His face had twisted into something between a grimace and a leer.
"Let it go," I had warned.
He had let it go, but I lived unnerved by the possibility that he would let
drop to Richard that he and I had once had a thing.
"That would actually work for me," Josh said now. "If you take the little ones for breakfast, Josie and Anastasie can sleep in and I can go into the city and get some work done."
"Then that’s what we’ll do," Richard said.
I had first met Josie and Anastasie on the quad of the McGill University campus eleven years before. I was lying on my back, basking in that April heat that promises a summer still months away. My body was one of hundreds strewn across the clipped lawn. I wanted nothing of the final exams and term papers that muddied my immediate future. As I turned to flip on my stomach, I saw Anastasie, two years old and a foot and a half tall. We called her Ana then, but when she was ten she read Balzac and she insisted on reverting to Anastasie. She toddled up to me. Her hair was in ringlets, her skin like maple syrup. I, who knew nothing of what I wanted from life except that I wanted a child, was enchanted by her. Josie sauntered up behind, maneuvering a stroller around bodies and books and backpacks and discarded winter jackets. Her skirt billowed around her muscular thighs, her hair was in the nubby sprouts of what became locks that tumbled down her back.
"I’m Josie." She folded herself down beside me. "And you, my dear, are a vision. A peacock among these pigeons."
I lowered my head to hide my embarrassment and my hair swung forward like curtains. "Do you go here?"
"In exactly seventeen days I will defend my dissertation and leave these hallowed halls for good. Finally."
I swung my head back to look at her. "Doctoral dissertation?" I stammered. I was a first year undergraduate, undeclared and unsure I wanted to stay in school.
"Yup." She shrugged. "French Lit. Nothing important."
A man, long even on all fours, crawled up behind Anastasie and barked softly in her ear. He nuzzled her neck until she collapsed in giggles, his shaggy hair blanketing pieces of her tiny frame.
"This is Paul," Josie introduced him. "An old friend. We’re going for coffee. Do you want to come?"
"No. Thanks. I should really hit the books. But can we exchange phone numbers?"
She was already scribbling hers on a piece of paper.
In the years after I met them, as it had in many of the years before, Josh and Josie’s marriage went through patches so rocky they caused me to suspend belief that love mattered to couples. Josh hooted at Josie that she lived in an ivory tower out of touch with anything real while she glowered hope his penis would fall off from its extramarital activity.
During one of their break-ups, in a mood of pathos or simple degeneracy, or because Josh was lonely and I unclear as to what I should do, we fell into a decision to do something about the flashes of attraction that had speckled our friendship. We flew to Dallas, rented a car and drove to Ciudad Juarez. From there we planned to take a train through the copper mountains to Los Mochis on the Pacific Coast because wanting to take the trip was the one thing we had in common.
In Ciudad Juarez, though, Josh dragged his feet. He missed Anastasie, who was then seven. He called her in the mornings and fretted afterwards that there would be no telephones on the train. We moped about cheap restaurants and fornicated in our hotel room on a small bed with immaculate threadbare sheets, a ceiling fan clicking in tune. Sex with Josh was an epiphany.
After four nights with him, I would never again return to the inefficient thumpers who had convinced me that more than what they offered was the stuff of pipe dreams, and in my post-coitus glow, his arrogance seemed well deserved.
On the morning of the fifth day, Josie interrupted his conversation with Anastasie to tell him she was pregnant. Because I loved her and because I did not love Josh, she did not find out that it was me he was with during those days.
The evening before the last day of Josh and Josie’s marriage, Paul strode into their house with two boxes of pizza in hand. He made a living by growing marijuana and moving it across the border to Champlain, New York and was evidently back from a recent run since his face was flushed, his energy electric. His lifestyle would have made for fascinating conversation because his routes, I had learned from a confiances with Josie, were one man’s replay of US Prohibition anecdotes. I, who had dropped out of university because it bored me, would have enjoyed having had Paul’s stories to buffet a latent interest in history, but because of a tacit agreement that came before my friendship with Josh and Josie, they were not available as a topic of conversation
"Anybody for Champlain pizza?" he asked.
"You went all the way to Champlain for pizza?" I faked innocence as we moved into the dining room and slid into chairs around the table.
Paul rolled his eyes and Josie shot me a shut-up look.
Anastasie bit into slice and spat it into her hand. "Yuck," she moaned. "This sucks."
"You went all the way to Champlain for pizza that sucks?" I teased.
"’Uck. ‘Uck," Jay mimicked.
Richard sent me a watch-your-mouth look, my language having become a concern of his ever since Jay had said "fuck" when he dropped a glass on our kitchen floor.
I sighed and changed the subject. "Who wants to go to Champlain for breakfast tomorrow?"
"Me! Me!" chorused the younger children.
"Can we go to that place with the Belgian waffles?" Anastasie asked.
"Sure. Why not?"
Josie said she was exhausted and had planned on sleeping in. Paul said he would love to go, but he had to work in his fields. Josh said he had to get work done, but since we needed to take two cars, he would go along.
The sun was out when we re-crossed the border. A fog hovered above the farmers' fields. Paul’s Subaru whooshed by us. I wondered if he was making another run. I walked into the kitchen ahead of Richard and the children. Josie was doing dishes and dancing to something Colombian on the radio.
"Is Anastasie up?" I asked. "I brought her a Belgian waffle."
Josie whipped around. A plate crashed from her hand into the sink. "She isn’t with you?"
"She was sleeping when we left. Why?"
She gripped my shoulders. She left bruises there that took six days to clear up. Panic crazed her eyes. "And Josh?"
"He went to the city," I croaked as his car pulled up beside the house and my mind figured out that she was sleeping with Paul.
She turned to greet him as he entered the kitchen, a smile pasted to her face just as Anastasie glided into the room and wrapped an arm around each of her parents’ shoulders.
"Did you two forget I was here?" she teased. "Or don’t you think you’re a little old to be singing in the shower together?"
Among the mushrooms Carlos is sketching, he draws a map. There is only one main road in Palenque, so the map is a simple one, showing me how far out of town to take that road and where the side road cuts in, the one that leads to the farmhouse hiding place of the rebels I have come from Montreal to interview. Carlos is a photographer. His pictures taken after the Chiapas uprising, smuggled out by a Canadian tourist on vacation in Cancun, convinced Jackson that I needed to go down and bring back testimonials which would help him, as their lawyer, argue for the Zapatistas for whom he sought refuge in Canada.
"Remember the ones with long stems and white caps are the good ones," Carlos says.
It is hours past midnight. We are in downtown Merida, sitting on a bench by a carrito from which a garrulous man is selling tacos. A white light, hung on a tree and fuelled by a propane tank, lights the vendor’s gnarly hands as he quickly folds together meat and bread to sell to the shadows that sidle up to his stall.. It lights the piece of paper on which Carlos is sketching the mushrooms, showing me which are hallucinogenic, which are poisonous. He whispers my instructions, his voice blends with the murmurs and clinks of coins between the vendor and his clients, his words are shielded by my outbursts of coughing. Remember that you are a tourist who speaks no Spanish. Remember to call no attention to yourself in your actions or your dress. Remember that the policemen in uniform are not the ones you have to worry about.
I take the overnight bus to Palenque. The air conditioning quiets my cough, for which I am grateful, though I know this means it will be worse in the morning. Beside me is a man with sun-seasoned skin and the type of hat measured in gallons in cowboy lore. He is a ranchero from the state of Tabasco, he tells me, in a voice so sad I forget I am supposed to speak no Spanish. He seems shy and machista in the ways that machismo is respectful and I suspect he loves in a manner that protects and suffocates.
"Don’t you have a husband?" he asks.
My mind caresses an image of Jackson’s face, full-lipped, full-eyed, his face when he first wakes up. "A pareja," I say. A partner, a companion, a common-law spouse.
"And he lets you travel like this? Alone?"
"Well, it’s not really up to him."
"Maybe he thinks that if he doesn’t let you, you will leave him to do it."
"I had a wife who liked to travel. Here and there. The coast, the mountains, the city. She left me for another. I think by letting her travel so much I made her think I must not love her."
"Lo siento," I say. I’m sorry. This is the cause of his great sadness.
A grey morning makes shadows of clusters of small buildings as the bus pulls into Palenque. I find a hotel room with no air-conditioning where I shower and change into a sleeveless dress. I hang a small money purse around my neck and pick up a straw hat from where I have thrown it on my bags. I stop at a cantina for breakfast. As soon as I sit down, my cough starts up. It is a chest-wrenching bark, a cough that makes people stare at me with concern, one that brings the cantina worker scurrying with a glass of water in her hand. I dump the water on the earth floor and lean over the glass. A glob of phlegm, slick and gelatinous, like an egg-white as it separates from the yolk, slides from my lungs into the glass. The woman steps back with a look of horror on her face.
"Esto no se hace, señorita," she squeals.
"Sorry. Sorry," I say in English. "I’ll pay for the glass."
"¿Cómo?" Her voice is shrill. She has lost all respect for me.
I hand her some money. She holds the bill between thumb and forefinger, crosses her arms over her buxom chest and glares at me.
"Coffee," I say meekly. "Eggs. Tortillas."
After breakfast, I put my hat on my head and set off down the main road. The sun is still low in a cloudless sky and the day is not yet hot. Ay mamita, men salivate as I pass stores and restaurants and a gas station loud with 18-wheelers. Ven, ven, ven acá. I think of Carlos’ instruction, remember not to call attention to yourself, and I sigh with nerves because that morning I have done little else.
I am suddenly in the country. Farm houses are set far back from the road, with cows and bulls grazing on stretches of grass, fenced in by wood roughly-hewn and neatly-painted. Ditches are busy with wildflowers, purple, yellow, orange, whose names I do not know, except for the birds of paradise which cost three dollars apiece at flower shops in Montreal. I pick a few, break their sturdy stems by twisting them until they snap. My sandals and ankles are drenched as I wade through brush wet with recent rain. There is little traffic on the road and not another human being in sight.
I consult Carlos’ map as I approach the side road. It is a dirt road, rutted deeply with tire tracks, muddy and puddled. I walk down it for over an hour, stop occasionally to hit mud off my sandals as it cakes to the soles and over the edges. The house is a dull red, one-story structure, L-shaped with a veranda hugging the inside of the ell. I look around once. I open the gate. Grazing cattle look up at me with lazy lifts of the head, then turn back to their munching. In patties of their dung, I see the mushrooms Carlos has labeled "good" in the drawing. I pick a few, shake the shit off the bottom of each stem before bunching them in a posy. This is my disguise. I am a tourist looking for the hallucinogens that attract many outsiders to the state of Chiapas. They are not exactly legal, Carlos explained, but not illegal enough for anyone to ignore the tourist dollars that they bring. Slowly, I work my way to the back door of the house. It is swung open and I flit inside.
I am greeted with hoots of joy, enveloped in hugs from Pedro and Amelia, the owners of the farm, which they have made an asylum for rebels fleeing the police in the months since the uprising. I am filled with a sense of Jackson and the importance of his work.
There are five people hiding here now, three women and two men. We settle around a long table. Pedro and Amelia leave the room. Their ignorance of what I am about to learn will protect them if they are ever caught. I drape the flowers and mushrooms over one corner of the table. I turn on the small tape recorder handed to me. I ask the questions Jackson has had me memorize, first in French for the Quebec courts, then in Spanish so I can be understood. My mind freezes past nausea as I listen. One woman’s home was invaded, and a pistol, loaded with a single bullet, inserted in her vagina, the trigger then pulled twice. Another, in the clearest, calmest voice imaginable, tells of rape. For a month, every evening at six o’clock, the same three guards, in the same order, in her prison cell, until she was released without an explanation, only a threat that she would be forever watched. The third woman shows me gashes and bruises, half-healed, on the backs of her thighs, bald spots on her head where clumps of hair were pulled out as she was hauled out of bed and dragged by her hair down a dirt road to a police wagon. The back of one of the men is criss-crossed with scars from regular jail whippings. The other man has never been caught, but he is high in the Zapatista ranks and the police, more than once, have come close to capturing him. Among them, they have lost four children to disappearance, the youngest only five years old.
When the telling and the listening have become exhausting, we stop for lunch. I am gripped, momentarily, by a sense of the surreal, as bodies that have been raped and beaten and dragged over stones move as mine does, darting around the kitchen to bring to the table the parts of the meal that we will share. Our conversation is of normal things, of food and weather and what the future will bring. Only when they laugh am I convinced that they are not normal, for not even laughter, I notice for the first time in my life, can clear grief from eyes if the grief goes deep enough.
The sun has long begun its descent when we finish. We make a bundle of the tapes and a few documents and glue it inside the crown of my hat. We say good-bye and speak of seeing each other in Montreal some day.
I leave empty-handed, forget to take with me the flowers and mushrooms that served as my disguise. A man, a farmhand to my eyes, is sitting on his haunches at the intersection with the main road. His clothes are clean, but well-worn and slightly ragged. He is chewing on a blade of grass. His hat is pulled low on his head and his eyes are lost in the shadow of its brim.
"Hay de lo que tú buscas," he says in a low voice and points to a field rich with cow dung. He explains that the rains that year have produced a particularly potent crop.
"¿Qué?" I say.
"Hongos. Hongos." He makes big gestures, defining what I would call a mushroom cloud in a game of charades.
A shiver runs through me as I notice that his hands are lean and soft. His fingernails are manicured, buffed. Sweat trickles between my shoulder blades, down my spine, It soaks the back of my dress. Remember that the policemen in uniform are not the ones you have to worry about.
I shake my head slowly to shake off the fear that my hat will fall off and everything in it will scatter on the ground in front of him. I focus on resisting the urge to grip it. By doing so in that windless evening I would only call attention to it. I pat my chest.
"Yo turista," I say with a strong accent. "No speak Spanish."
He pushes back his hat with an impatient flick of his wrist.
"Mutch- rooms," he says slowly as he jabs his finger in the direction of some cattle.
I give him a puzzled look. My cough scratches; it is cautious, leery, like an unappreciated friend. I clear my throat, nudging it along. It comes on full force. I hold one hand firmly on the crown of my hat as I gag and hack and choke. Then I vomit, not just phlegm, but what is left of my lunch. He yelps and jumps back a step. I spot flecks of green peppers, carrots, tomatoes in the puddle at my feet. I look him in the face as I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand. He is disgusted. I bite my lower lip to stop myself from laughing.
"Hijo de la gran chingada," he mutters as he pulls a spotless handkerchief from his back pocket
and hands it to me. Son of the great fucked one. " ¿Qué carajo es esto?"
I wipe my hands and offer his handkerchief back to him. He shakes his head, gives me that look of fear reserved for the crazy. I walk past him and head back to town. Even his language would be different if he were a farmhand, I think, as the sweat dries on the back of my dress and the bundle snuggles close to the top of my head.
December 6, 1989
Genvieve BergeronHelene ColganNathalie CroteauBarbara DaigneaultAnne-Marie EdwardMaud HaviernickBarbara Klucznik WidajewiczMaryse LaganiereMaryse LeclairAnne-Marie LemaySonia PelletierMichele RichardAnnie St - ArneaultAnnie TurcotteIn memory of the fourteen women killed by Marc Lepine at the Ecole Polytechnique of the Universite de Montreal - because he was an anti-feminist and they were engineering students.
Leap of faith
I heard the subway rumble into the station as I hit the top of the stairs and I bounded down, leapt the last three to the pinging sound of the doors about to close and flew into a car before the they slid shut behind me. It was Sunday the time between trains was long enough to make me impatient, to make me question the wisdom of going all the way downtown for a rendez-vous with a man I've been seeing for about three weeks. I was going to do what I do on Sunday nights anyway: watch Desperate Housewives and paint my fingernails, except that I was going to do it at his place where the television is bigger than mine, the sound system superlative, the view spectacular, and the company...well, that's the point, isn't it?As the train shot into the tunnel, I had a flash of memory of doing my dishes in the suburban Pennsylvania house I lived in only last year. It was summer and the window above the sink was open. The scent of the rose-of-sharon that blossomed outside the window mingled with the rotten-eggs smell of the compost we had saved all winter and spread in the garden. To my right, outside the wall of windows in the living room, I could see the hammock swinging on the enormous maple in our yard. My husband rushed in from outside and into the computer room, rushed by me to avoid a conversation, a battle, a dialogue that would frustrate both of us. He smelled of the cigarettes he had taken to smoking regularly in the garage. He was a responsible spouse whose job paid our bills and who made time for our children - he was the kind of 'good guy' we're supposed to be grateful to marry. Never mind that he was unbelievably unfair emotionally.So here I was, a 46-year-old single mom rushing downtown to meet a man five years younger than I am, who has no children of his own, whose lifestyle is only about work and play, who can pop wheelies on a motorcycle, who laughed out loud when I asked him if he filed an income-tax return. Don't get me wrong, I don't cotton with idiots and his brain is placed just right. I worry, though, that he smokes too much and drinks too much and that my sons will think those are cool things to do. I've never dated a bad boy before and I'm frightened sometimes of the cliff-edge I'm walking on. But from the minute he decided he wanted to be with me, he was completely emotionally available....his cards right out on the table, no doubts, no questions left to ask.And I'm wondering why we aren't raised to believe that that's what we really deserve.
It’s the season of peace on earth, goodwill towards men. But not in Toronto’s year of the gun.Another young man has been lost on the city's mean streets, this time in the west end. It’s the 49th time in 2005 bullets have taken a life, and the 49th time relatives have been inconsolable at the news another son has been taken too soon. The victim has been identified as 24-year-old Corey Dellon John of Toronto. A woman, believed to be his mother, rushed to the Bloor and Perth area on Tuesday, after shots rang out around 3pm. She was inconsolable, crying and wailing uncontrollably as she recognized the figure lying prone in an alleyway as her son. Area businesses came to a standstill after the ricochet of bullets echoed through the busy area, and one storeowner tried to do what he could to help. “When I go outside, the guy's on the floor,” recalls Resham Dugz, who knew the victim as one of his regular customers. “So I tried to call 911.”But it was too late. By the time paramedics arrived, John had no vital signs and the emergency run to Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre was ominously cancelled. The body lay under a tarp for hours, as police waited for the coroner to arrive and detectives gathered clues. Dozens of children gaped at the shocking scene, arriving home after several of their schools were locked down during the incident. While most parents would prefer they not be exposed to the violence, some think some good may come out of all the evil. “Maybe this is reality. Maybe it's going to hit home,” declares a resident named Rhonda. “Maybe it will give someone an idea to stop carrying the guns, the weapon and they'll see first hand what can happen with a gun.” There’s no word on the motive behind this latest gun crime. Cops say witnesses saw two or three black men fleeing the scene in a light coloured vehicle. But so far, there have been no arrests.
It was an eerie déjà vu for many in the area. It’s the same neighbourhood where 10-year-old Holly Jones was abducted and dismembered in May 2003.
November 30, 2005
Mi karma is not su karma
Had I stood up from my computer about 30 minutes before I actually did, I would have seen it. I face out the window when I'm at my desk, but when I'm sitting, I see the tops of houses and buildings, when I'm standing, I see the street. Had I stood up a few minutes earlier yesterday afternoon, I would have witnessed a young man being shot to death, the 49th homocide by gun in Toronto this year.Had my 12-year-old not been away on a three-day field trip and had the shooting happened a hour or so later than it did, my sons would have been coming home from school together and together they would have seen it.Because my 12-year-old is away, because my 9-year-old is too young to walk from school by himself, I went to pick him up and when I stood up from my computer to go do that, I saw a couple of cop cars and an ambulance on the street. I thought someone had been hit by a car. By the time I got downstairs, there was a phalanx of cop cars on my street. By the time I had walked the few blocks to the north end of my street, I knew the elementary school on my street was in a lockdown and that outside my window there had been a shooting. By the time I came back with my son, the street was crawling with media. It was a circus through the evening: the street and sidewalks were blocked off, crowds stood around like tourists, policemen with flashlights searched the grounds of the building where I live. And a cop stopped by my apartment and questioned me about where I was at the time in case I had seen anything.All I could think through it all was: 'How did this happen? How did I become someone raising children on a street where someone gets shot to death - and for "drug-related reasons" at that?'Had I not had children, though, I would not be freaked out. I'm afraid of very little. I once travelled for a month on the trains in India during a heavy monsoon season when derailments were a daily event and I was never afraid. My first job was in Cali, Colombia - yea, that Colombia - a job I got through the mail and flew down to do without knowing a single soul and fear was never a factor. I'm not scared of the night. I've travelled in Mexico by myself. I even took an overnight bus trip in the States once. It's not that I'm stupid or brash or rash or anything like that. Nor do I take irrational risks. It's just that I believe to the core of my being that I have a benevolent karma in this lifetime and that I am protected from random harm.Today, more than anything, I want to wrap my karma around my children, keep them safe inside its embrace.But they have their own karmas, their own souls' journeys and there's not a damn thing I can do about that.This morning, there is one cop car still on the street. I think its job is to make us feel safe. When I was walking my 9-year-old to school, I warned him that this was going to be a hot topic that day and asked him if he needed to discuss anything more about it. His answer: "Not really. Like, hasn't there been a lot of trouble here since the summer?" He doesn't get it; he doesn't understand that this one is different because it came right to our front door. He still feels like his world is safe and for that I am so grateful.We walked by a garbage truck that had the radio cranked to that song with the line: "This is the end of an innocence." Maybe mine, I thought, but not his, thank god. Not yet.