Tuesday, 16 December 2014
My hunger for pork'n'beans, like the universe, is a boundless thing, which is why I am again posting more of Mr. Laba's degenerate art work to keep the money for those cans flowing. What can I say about Mr. Laba's endeavors except that he certainly knows how to massacre paper with pen and ink but at least it keeps his hands busy because he would no doubt be abusing himself relentlessly were it not for this little hobby of his. Monkey-fisted, ham-headed, worm-brained, the endless analogies to his physiological and psychological make-up escape me although descriptive words like priapic, paunchy and perverted certainly top the list. Beneath you will find his newest creation, a piece I found so distasteful I charged him five cans of pork and beans to post it. He calls it "The Sleep of Reason Produces Few Reasons For Sleep," but I call it "You Better Sleep With One Eye Open Like The Guy In Your Picture, Laba, Because When The Pork & Bean Money Runs Out I'm Gonna Kill You!"
Thursday, 27 November 2014
Well, dear readers, it's that time again where that bozo from British Columbia, Mark Laba, has paid me in pork and bean money to splat his artwork up on my widely read and much talked about blog. He's now paying me in rolls of nickels and dimes, the brown paper rolls stained with the remnants of his Cheezie-dusted fingerprints but even if he's nickel and diming me to death, I have to take his money as per our previous agreement. Obviously things are taking a turn for the worse for Mr. Laba if he's resorting to paying me with rolls of coins, coins he no doubt fished out of the fountain at the local mall when security wasn't looking. Nevertheless, a man's got to eat and every roll of coins is another notch in my pork'n'bean belt while Mr. Laba, one can safely assume, can't even give his art away due to its infantile rendering and contemptible subject matter. That he even grips a pen in that monkey-fist he calls a hand (a hand that would be much more well-suited to self-pleasuring than attempting any drawing) is an abomination upon the art world and I've seen better results from diarrhea splatters in the toilet bowls of public restrooms than the crude markings Mr. Laba scrawls on cheap paper he finds in wastebaskets. He calls this new drawing "The Loneliness of the Long Distance-Calling Ventriloquist with Walrus" but I think "Laba Licks Urinal Pucks" is more fitting. Those urinal pucks might also explain how he hallucinates and then renders such distasteful themes. Lay off the urinal pucks, Laba, whether you're sniffing or licking them because they'll rot whatever is left of your pine-scented brain. As for the walrus, wishful thinking on his part because no walrus would have sex with him even if he were the last mammal on the ice floe and he had seal meat strapped to his scrawny, pallid body and fake tusks fashioned from toilet paper rolls stuck with his own snot to his face. Anyway, try to enjoy the drawing and I'll certainly be enjoying my pork and beans.
Tuesday, 18 November 2014
Dear readers, it's time again for me to post another of that miscreant who calls himself a man, Mark Laba's artistic endeavors even though I'm starting to think he's paying me with counterfeit twenties. Nevertheless, the lady at the Shop'n'Go casts nary a glance at the bills I produce and thus my pork and beans and Chef Boyardee Beefaroni larder is bursting at the seams with chemically enhanced and mechanically de-boned goodness and nutrition. So, up goes another messy piece of pen and ink from a man who must make mucilage his muse judging by his disgusting and talentless work not to mention the crusty stains that always seem to speckle his shirt and pants. In this drawing I believe he his attempting some sort of metaphorical rendering of that keftede-headed Casanova of Crete, the famed Telly Savalas, depicted in all his post-Kojak glory. Or maybe it's pre-Kojak, who can tell from these puerile pen-on-paper markings that would make even goat droppings on broken concrete seem like a Matisse. I believe Mr. Laba calls this one "Who Loves You, Baby," but "Who Loathes You, Laba" would be more fitting.
Thursday, 23 October 2014
Here's another piece of trash Mr. Laba has created. Just keep those pork and beans coming, Laba or I'm taking you off the site. In this instance he apparently was too lazy to even draw something and so he just took an existing Jughead Jones Gag Bag (I'm gagging right now), switched around a bunch of heads and then added his own obscure and idiotic speech balloons that he claims are poetic. I guess they are if you think poetry is something wet you step in in the rooming-house bathroom late a night. Good work, Laba. Leonardo da Vinci you ain't. And frankly, your obsession with Archie comics, goats and Milton Berle's penis is very off putting.
Here's another piece by that degenerate artist, Mark Laba. That he's paying me in pork and bean money to show his work on my site is the only motivating factor here for me but after viewing this piece of trash, I'm reconsidering this arrangement. Unfortunately I'm heating up a can of pork and beans right now and mmmmm! do they ever smell delicious so I guess the artwork stays for now until I get a bad can and have diarrhea in my pants. Mr. Laba calls this one Nauseous Fingerprints or something like that and all I can say is, I'm getting nauseous looking at it.
Welcome to a new section of the Haltiwanger Report where I give over content of the page to an acquaintance of mine by the name of Mark Laba. He believes himself to be something of an artist but between you and me, he's just a sniveling excuse for a human being with all the artistic merit of a chimpanzee in a painter's smock and beret. Truly, I detest him and his work more than I hate raisins in butter tarts but he has agreed to pay me twenty dollars a month to feature his art on my widely popular blog and frankly I need the money to keep me in pork and beans. So, without further ado here's Mr. Laba's first piece of work in my Dr. Haltiwanger's Art-A-Rama section. I'm not sure what this piece is as he didn't title it but apparently Mr. Laba tried to draw Archie's head, unsuccessfully I might add. He truly is a dimwit (Mr. Laba, not Archie of course).
Tuesday, 7 October 2014
Terror at Ten Pin Lanes
As a man of science, gastronomy, art and literature, not to mention my erotic janitorial accomplishments, you can understand how I am brimming with ideas but have far too many projects to actually complete anything. But then again, I think there is much to be said for the uncompleted task as it leaves an air of mystery and keeps boredom from setting in, for both the artist and the reader or viewer of the work. Take for instance the many novels I have reviewed that I've never read. The fact is, after one or two pages, you've really absorbed the best parts of the book and to slog on ad nauseam is to do a great injustice to both the novelist and your brain. Best to quit while both you and the author are ahead and not get bogged down in those long middle sections and endings that always disappoint. Sometimes having the attention span of a gnat helps you keep one step ahead of the snap of the hungry frog's tongue and ending up as the after-scent of an amphibian's odorous burp. If you catch my drift.
On that note I've created this new section in my report wherein I discuss, briefly, an idea for a novel I'll never write accompanied by a cover drawing for the never-to-be-published book and in some cases, even an excerpt. So, for this first installment I humbly submit my blockbuster novel, bound to be enjoyed by young adult and mature readers alike and that I tentatively title, Terror At Ten Pin Lanes. Of course the book will never be finished let alone bound, so this whole point is moot.
Chapter One - Aztec Party Hats
It’s odd when you look back from where you are and can’t remember the path you took to get there in the first place. Maybe that’s why people just fall into things and when you ask them how they came to be what they are or where they ended up they just shrug their shoulders and say they were just lucky or unlucky but things just kind of fell into place or happened a certain way. Take me for example. All of thirteen years old and already I’m on the sacrificial virgins list, just because my dad’s bowling alley is going tits up, as the boys at my school like to say. Or better yet, take Al Kugelman a.k.a. the Aztec deity, and the cause of all my problems. I mean who would’ve thought that this elderly man living at the end of our street would suddenly be transformed into an Aztec god while he was standing at the kitchen sink peeling some hard-boiled eggs one day. Or at least that’s the way he tells it but really, when my dad presses him on the details on this remarkable transformation, though it did nothing for his bald spot or comb-over or disgusting varicose veins that stand out like throbbing blue worms when he wears shorts on hot summer days, Al has trouble remembering anything. He remembers the eggs and he remembers some sort of blinding light bathing him in an intense heat and then bingo, he woke up in his La-Z-Boy recliner chair wearing nothing but this magnificent feathered headdress and a loincloth.He walked out of his house dressed like this and Mrs. Kulpinski, next door, almost had a heart attack while she was watering her rose bushes. Al Kugelman is not the kind of man you want to see in a bathing suit let alone a loin cloth but she did admit the feathered headdress made him look dignified.
At first everyone just thought he’d had a stroke seeing as he was speaking some kind of language that wasn’t recognizable as anything but gibberish so we all figured he’d just forgotten how to talk. Which is what happens with a stroke, apparently. My grandmother, Nana Euclid had one and mom had to sit with her for six months looking at alphabet books for babies, sounding out the letters and trying to put them together into simple words. Like cat and rat and dog and nut. She finally did get most of her speech back except sometimes she sounded like she was trying to talk underwater or with too much food in her mouth and her left eye got lazy and would look out at something else even when she was staring straight into your face. Which is actually something I admired because then you’ve got your vision in two different places, like those chameleons that can rotate each of their eyes separately and then no predator can sneak up on you. And believe me, they’re plenty of predators out there waiting for you, even in tenth grade. I mean besides all the evil guys and kidnappers that your parents are always warning you about or you see on TV, it’s the ones closer to home like Lester Springmeyer, that kid two blocks away whose always showing me his weenie or Mandy Glower, popular at school even though she’s dosed to the gills on Ritalin and has the attention span of a Smart Phone and uses that phone to spread terrible made-up rumors about people she hates and of course Al Kugelman, octogenarian and Aztec god to boot, sticking me there on his sacrificial list because my dad said it was okay if it would help save his bowling alley, that you have to worry about. I’m not too happy with my dad right now and my mom put up quite a stink but Al promised that the sacrifice was years away, not really until I was an adult because he’s backlogged with sacrificial virgins currently (they’re trucking them in from all parts of the country, the demand for Al’s services are that great plus Al has a rule that no one can be sacrificed until they’re of voting age so the victims awaiting sacrifice are piling up), and by that time dad figures, once his business is back in business again he can find a way to buy Al off. But I don’t think Aztec gods can be bought off so easily, especially when you’ve signed some parchment in blood and I know dad did this because after he got back from Al’s late one night from a supposed poker game he was swearing and yelling at mom about where she kept the Band-aids. Blood may be thicker than water but it certainly isn’t as thick as the air at our house after mom got wind of the deal dad cut with Al the Aztec god.
I was in my bedroom that night when dad got home, but I was still awake even though it was well past 11 and a school night. So I heard everything.
“What’s going on, Henry? Why are you bleeding? I thought it was just a friendly poker game.”
“It was, Mel. I just cut myself, I was trying to cut a piece of salami, the knife slipped and I cut myself. Now where are the goddamn Band-aids?”
“On your forearm? You’re cutting salami and that’s where the knife hits? I mean I understand a finger, a knuckle, but who cuts a piece of salami and the knife slips all they way up their forearm. You didn’t make some kind of deal with that old goat, did you?”
“He’s not an old goat, Mel. He’s an Aztec god and he can make things happen. Like getting the bowling alley back on track, bringing in some business.”
“I knew it. You signed a pact in blood with that old pervert. You promised him our daughter, didn’t you?”
“Mel, look at it this way. He’s backlogged on sacrificial virgins right now. I mean you could fill a warehouse with them. He told me he probably wouldn’t get around to sacrificing Dusty until seven or eight years from now. And by that time really, what’re the chances she’ll still be a virgin. Off to college, all that jazz, really we’d be closing our eyes and pretending we’re blind if we didn’t recognize what’s really going on. Which then instantly stops her from being sacrificial material. So, bingo, the bowling alley is saved and Dusty continues on her way, graduates, meets a nice guy, gets married and then one day she and hubby and the grandkids inherit the business. Or if Al is still dead set on sacrificing her, by that time with the bowling alley doing well I’m sure I could pay him off with a nice chunk of money. I mean he’s an Aztec god and everything but even an Aztec god needs some rec-room renovations or a new water heater or something.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Not the fact that my dad offered me up for sacrifice but that he actually expected me to take over the bowling alley one day. Since I was a toddler it seemed my dad was forever putting me to work there. When I was crawling he would attach dusting pads to my knees and have me go up and down the lanes removing dirt and polishing the wood. I thought it was a game. As I got older he put me in charge of spraying the bowling shoes with disinfectant and that’s about when my disgust for bowling and the various vile odors of human feet really swayed me towards becoming anything but the owner of a bowling alley. As far as I was concerned virgin sacrifice would be a piece of cake compared to deordorizing shoes and helping old people with gargoyle toes try to find the right size shoes for their gnarled feet. Or worse yet, having to attend to the bowling shoe needs of my classmates’ stinky feet. Humiliating was not even close to the shame I felt but it all went right over my dad’s toupee as he thought he was teaching me solid life lessons and business values that would see me through to my old age. Either way I had no intention of being sacrificed, by my family or an Aztec deity but if gods were anything like humans, especially of the adult variety, I’d have them both eating out of the palm of my hand in no time. With a little mall money to spend too.
It was that night really, overhearing my parents arguing, that I made up my mind to do something about this whole mess. First things first, I was going to have a talk with Kugelman and get the lowdown on this whole Aztec god business. I knew him of course as the old guy down the street and one of dad’s poker playing cronies but since his transformation, he didn’t really say hello to me or mom anymore when we passed him on the sidewalk, maybe because he secretly knew my sacrifice was looming and he felt guilty about it. Or maybe Aztec gods didn’t talk to mere mortals like us except to give us sacrificial instructions on our day of reckoning.
Speaking of days of reckoning, Kugelman was very private about his whole sacrificial process. The way I read about it, the Aztecs liked to make a big show out of their days of sacrifice, attended by thousands, bodies being carted up and down the steps of the huge temple pyramids, lots of feasting, like a trip to Disneyland but with lots of blood and no mouse. But Kugelman was really secretive about the whole thing and never invited anyone to watch. It all took place out back of Yeager’s Muffler and Brake Shop where there was an overgrown and unused field behind a beaten-up chain link fence. In the middle of the field was a Quonset hut and that’s where Al Kugelman set up his sacrificial altar. The door was padlocked and occasionally customers at Yeager’s waiting for their mufflers or brakes to be fixed would catch a glimpse of old Kugelman, done up in his colorful feathered headdress, loincloth and fuzzy slippers, ducking inside and closing the door quickly behind him. Nobody ever saw a sacrificial victim being taken inside and even when Mr. Blanchard, a retired army colonel and the leader of the town’s boy scout troop, set up a twenty-four hour surveillance on the Quonset hut, nothing out of the ordinary was seen except of course Kugelman in his crazy get-up going in and out of the hut a couple of times. And not a drop of blood to be seen, which is pretty strange when you’re sacrificing people for a living. The town council managed to persuade Mr. Blanchard to call off his surveillance because they were afraid of angering the Aztec god, especially after he’d just promised them a new baseball diamond and bleachers for the Little League team.
So, one Saturday morning I begged off bowling alley duty with the excuse that I was going to go downtown and have a look at my dad’s competition. See if I could come back with some ideas to make dad’s business more successful. Dad’s bowling alley was in a rundown building with musty carpeting and lanes that were warping over time. The gumball and candy machines had the same stuff in them from the 1950’s when the place was first built. At the time it was high tech. Now Galaxy Lanes had opened downtown with glow-in-the-dark bowling, state-of-the-art score keeping computers, a snack bar that served gourmet pizza and fancy coffee and even a singles mingle bowling night where you could meet that special someone while knocking down pins. The fact was it didn’t take a rocket scientist to see where dad’s alley had gone wrong and Galaxy Lanes was succeeding. But it would take money to update or a miracle to bring people in, both of which would take an Aztec god to make it happen as far as my dad was concerned. And an Aztec god demanded a sacrifice and so off I went to meet the man or god who held the key to my fate.
It was a beautiful spring day, warmer than usual as I pedaled my bike down the street. Between the chirping birds, fluffy white clouds, buzzing bees and blooming shrubbery the promise of summer was only a stones-throw away.
Monday, 8 September 2014
People of the Deer by Farley Mowat
With the somewhat recent passing of Farley Mowat, it seems amiss that I have never reviewed any of his books that I've never read. Well, I'm here to remedy that situation and though I could have selected one of his more well-known novels like Never Cry Wolf or The Dog Who Wouldn't Be or his much maligned by the critics but still wildly popular memoir, Hair of the Beard, Hem of the Kilt, I chose instead his very first novel because that was the one on the thrift shop fifty-cent sale shelf. It was this book really that was to cement the ideas that later would make up Mowat's oeuvre of Arctic tundra, antler envy, wolves in fleece clothing, dogs flying airplanes, reindeer salami, oil tankers carrying the cryogenically-frozen heads of ex-Nazis and the mysterious disappearance of the Franklin Expedition's narwhal-tusk lacrosse sticks from the Lacrosse Museum of Irkutsk.
Mowat was not a man to dither around with fanciful words like dither, homunculus, Francois Mitterand or bratwurst, when one could get right to the point with simple usage and syntax like "underwear-shaped icebergs," "smelly bear gland mittens" or "eyes stretched hard against the bleak and blinding snowy wasteland like caribou snot cradled by lichen stained with Viking blood."
His intuitive way with both nature and direct mail order catalog marketing have led his legions of fans to say everything from "Damn, Mowat, that book really opened my eyes to the plight of walrus' used as florists in situation comedies," to "Thanks again, Farley, the slippers arrived just in time for my wife's birthday and were just as you described but even better. That dried oolichan skin feels great on the tootsies." The point is, this two-fold skill set of both narrative dexterity and salesmanship situated Mr. Mowat in a unique position in the annals of Canadian literary history because if you're able to write an engrossing book and equally adept at engrossing potential customers with poetic descriptions of products from electric toenail clippers to deer hoof salt and pepper shakers (Mowat set up quite a successful little deer hoof novelty cottage industry for his extended family including his ne'er do well brother-in-law, Albert, who bankrupted his own father's maple syrup company by mixing the maple syrup with motor oil to get more syrup per litre thus lowering his production costs while boosting his sale price), then you've got it made in the shade of a deer tick infested pine tree.
Speaking of deer hooves, be they on the animal or adorning your tabletop, it's time to get down to the blubber of this book and examine the motives and morality that Mowat likes to hit us with with all the sting of a frozen seal flipper smack across the face. If you don't know what that feels like then obviously you haven't had a typical Canadian upbringing. What Canadian child hasn't been disciplined with a frozen seal flipper at one time or another? It's part of what makes our nation great, our seals fearful and our citizens so polite.
The premise is this. Farley Mowat, as a fictional version of himself and renamed Nigel Cluneworth II, travels far into the Arctic Circle to discover a lost Arctic tribe who might very well have been the original descendants of the Pleistocene ice age inhabitants who crossed the massive land bridges from Siberia to Baffin Island and then traveled inland to the barrens of Hudson Bay. There they found vast herds of caribou and bucket loads of ptarmigan (Colonel Sanders would've had a field day with these birds if he ever got this far north as ptarmigan, cooked and breaded, are not only delicious but size-wise made for cardboard buckets), so they had plenty to eat and lots of feathers with which to make their trademark duvets. Unlike the Inuit who fashioned snazzy snow houses from their surroundings back in the day, this tribe, known as the Ishkabibblelites, according to Mowat but refuted by everybody else except Mowat's dog, Randolph, refused to build any type of shelter against the elements and so the duvets were integral to their outdoor existence. If you have any doubts that these Arctic grouse can provide the proper protection against such fierce and unrelenting conditions then just find yourself a gaggle of ptarmigan, plunk yourself down in their midst (they are highly attracted to human flesh due to its high trans fat content, porous skin and hair follicles that, to the ptarmigan seem to mimic the texture of certain tundra mosses that they like) and as they snuggle up to you with their plump grouse bodies you will feel a warmth like a thousand suns or twenty Pizza Pockets fresh out of the microwave and duct-taped to your body with maybe one or two inserted into your anal cavity for extra warmth against those endless Arctic nights.
Nigel, after days of traveling by dogsled across the barren tundra, finally encounters the first signs of the Ishkabibbilites in the form of a mound of blood-stained duvets, some freshly plucked ptarmigans and a gutted caribou carcass. It's not long before Nigel finds the tribe hunkered down a few miles away and enjoying a late afternoon picnic of fresh, raw caribou meat and lichen salad. Though they're wary at first, once Nigel proves he speaks Ishkabibblelite (which Mowat describes as a deep guttural noise, not unlike a male caribou looking to mate or the sound of Mowat's Uncle Stan eating blood pudding), he is welcomed into the tribe and even honored with his own duvet although Nigel is deathly allergic to ptarmigan feathers and sneezes incessantly. As he wanders the tundra with these nomadic nomads of the north, Nigel comes to understand their ways, their culture, their fears and their plight from the gradual encroachment of the "white man" that is threatening their way of life. Mowat deftly describes the hardships of the Ishkabibblelites, from the cannibalistic larvae of the devil flies that hatch in the rotting carcasses of caribou but quickly seek out human flesh to satiate their omnivorous appetites to the corpses of the white trappers riding across the ice floes on their ghost sleds looking to carry away the weak, the elderly and the snow blind to their hellish lairs beneath the ice. And that's just an average Monday up there in the Great White North. That all changed of course once they set up bingo halls in the Quonset huts. Here are a couple of passages from the book guaranteed to raise your hackles, spackle your mackeral and shrink your man-tackle so that it doesn't freeze from being dragged through a snowbank.
"I paddled over to the still-quivering corpse and saw the murderer in all his glory, its ovipositor throbbing as it began ejaculating larvae into Kakumee's bloodstream. Eventually these squirming eggs would form a small mass about the size of a grapefruit beneath the host skin and it was ironic that the only cure for this invasion of these repulsive parasites was the injection of actual grapefruit juice in a land where sadly no grapefruit had ever, nor would ever, be seen. If they succeeded in hatching then the nematodes would become winged and soon every man, woman and child's liver would be consumed and there would be no igloo left for Ootek or seal meat for Franz, the German explorer, bon-vivant and heir to a schnitzel fortune back in Gruenwurst, who had lost his way 20 years ago searching for the Northwest Passage and had been hanging around ever since, ingratiating himself with the Inuit and the Ishkabibbleites, using his cheery beer-hall personality and promises of sleds full of pork sausage if his father ever received the letter he sent tied to the leg of a well-trained but slightly aging passenger ptarmigan who most probably had gone down somewhere over Labrador or at best, a few miles out over the Atlantic."
And then there's this:
"The ghost trapper appeared, lips frozen into a grimace and his voice was like that of a dog breaking wind. The Eskimo hunters stopped and admired his strange sled until it dawned on them he came from the land of the dead. His journey was done but theirs was just beginning. Curiosity and zoology had rendered him a corpse and his subsequent darkness bade ground squirrels, Arctic hares and garrulous ptarmigan to multiply until their tracks covered the hills, valleys and full bellies of wing-boned sorcerers trusted to discern the hastily erected tents of lifeless beings who grew fat on the flesh of the lost, sick and forlorn."
What one notices immediately is the surreal, almost stream-of consciousness tone this second example takes. For good reason it turns out for during the time Mowat was in the Arctic, he had discovered, and was helping himself quite liberally, to a hallucinogenic lichen the Ishakabibbleites referred to as Kaila, God of Dizziness, Bright Light and Vomiting. And it's here where literary history takes a turn for the surprising because, as it turns out, Mowat, through some earlier university spore exchange program between the U.S. and Canada where they were feeding mole-rats various psychotropic plant extracts and fungus scrapings (on behalf of the military of course), and monitoring their reactions, befriended a young William Burroughs who was already showing a penchant for mind-altering drugs and as Mowat wrote to Burroughs during his Arctic excursion, "Hey Bill, get your scrawny ass up here to the Barrens because I've found some lichen that'll knock your socks off and turn your head into a spongy mass of primeval tundra mush that stinks of the spoors of long dead woolly mammoths and Neanderthal armpits. I'm guessing it might just be your cup to tea and fuck if it doesn't make the Northern Lights look like the birth of the goddamn universe taking place right inside your brain."
A short but enlightening correspondence ensued and the end result was Burroughs was up there as fast as a DeHavilland Beaver could drop his bony butt on the ice. The never-before-published letters between the two men, known as the Lichen Letters, were no doubt the inspiration behind a later series of published correspondences between Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, well-known as The Yage Letters that explored the two writers' search for and experimentation with an Amazonian vine that, when brewed became a powerful hallucinogen. For my money I'd take the lichen over the vine any day because tropical climes give me hives and I like to avoid snakes and sloths when I'm hallucinating. Plus, after my psychedelic journey, I like to know there's a snowmobile nearby so I can get to a Tim Horton's Doughnut shop as quickly as possible and refuel my body with a couple of maple-glazed after exploring the deepest regions of my mind. It's a known fact maple-glazed doughnuts restore the body's tissue, brain cells and nerve fibers after heavy cerebral exertions. That's why the rest of the world is crazy for the stuff. By the way, the Lichen Letters are slated to be published by my good friend and roofer, loving divorcee and life coach, Ed Smeeley Jr. under his imprint, Nail Gun Through The Head Press but hopefully I'll be able to give a preview of some of these letters on these pages soon. Stay tuned.
Although the experiences of these two literary men tripping out on hallucinogenic lichen while wandering the tundra are not described in this novel, the essence of that event are reflected in an evolving subtext throughout the book that allows Mowat to play with words and ideas as if he were locked in an ice-fishing hut during spring thaw, listening to the ice creaking as it softens up while he screams for help but only gets the howling of wolves and the sputtering of a snowmobile misfiring from bad spark plugs miles away in reply. Maybe if he'd gobbled down a dozen maple-glazed doughnuts to begin with it would have given him the strength to karate chop down the walls of the hut in the first place but who thinks of these things when you're venturing out on the lake to catch a couple of winter trout and maybe masturbate to thoughts of Anne Murray singing Snowbird while dressed in a fetching purple pantsuit on an episode of the Tommy Hunter Show that you saw years ago when you were just a kid and your father told you to "get th'hell to bed," as he tried to adjust the rabbit ears on the TV set because the only thing he was seeing about Anne Murray singing Snowbird was just snow on the screen.
But that's neither here nor there (which lies somewhere between midair and unaware), because this book is still a great expose of government hypocrisy, the destructive forces of economic control in the Arctic, the tenuous balance between nature and technology, the caribou antler hat-rack and side-table lamp industry and one man's quest (albeit stoned to the gills on psychedelic lichen) to bring to light the plight of a forgotten people. And by that I mean the Ishkabibblelites and not the cryogenically frozen heads of ex-Nazis looking for a good home and basement deep freezer in the suburbs. This is truly an amazing book even though I barely made it past the first page but with a cover like this featuring a herd of majestic caribou outlined against a stark Arctic winter landscape, their enormous curved antlers just waiting to be turned into inkwells, salt and pepper shakers, hat-racks, lamp stands and ashtrays, their dung heaps peppering the air with their joy and their fear, and the unseen but anticipatory arrival of the ancient tribe that likes to eat them (including the eyeballs and snouts), you don't really need to read anything inside. Sometimes, you really can judge a book by its cover or a caribou by its hide, especially when it's standing under a urine-yellow sky and you've just ingested some hallucinogenic lichen or, in my case this fuzzy mold growing on the half a can of uncovered Alphaghetti at the back of my fridge that left me feeling a little queasy but turned my hot plate into the Northern Lights after I finished vomiting into a pillowcase. Mowat remains a writer of incredible and indefatigable talent (although he is dead so some fatigue must have set in by now) and I believe I'll return to him again and again to never read his many fine novels for ideas and inspiration, or at least as long as I keep finding moldy food in my fridge or under by bed.
Monday, 21 July 2014
The novel opens very lackadaisically with your garden-variety Ferrari whipping along a deserted country road in Blemingshire as the driver seeks to extinguish his grief over the recent death of his father by attaining high speeds while dicing vegetables in his mind. This opening scene, though, is not as unwitting as it seems for the driver, Luiz Mandibolo, a recent graduate of the Barcelona Saucier School of Saucing is actually dicing the vegetables of his vivid imagination, the ones that he dreamed would one day lead him to sauce perfection and this is something his deceased father, Antonio Schmitz Mandibolo, would never have understood nor condoned as he had devoted his life to the making, selling and admiring of chesterfields and his own patented heavily-brocaded and yet fart-proof upholstery. His father died in a tragic piano tuning accident when, curious as to what the piano tuner was doing to his antique Steinschmeltz powder-blue grand, he peered inside unfortunately at the same time the lid gave way and came crashing down, severing Antonio Mandibolo's head and the piano tuner's hands simultaneously. As Ms. Williams so tactfully writes, considering the macabre subject matter of this opening chapter, "Gostremsky, the piano tuner, wasn't even sure what had occurred until he saw the headless body of Antonio Mandibolo slump to the floor, its neck stump pumping blood like it was emptying a Port-A-Potty. Then, from within the closed lid of the piano he heard Mandibolo's voice and the severed head was yelling, 'Hey, get your filthy piano tuner fingers out of my nose and mouth and why th'hell did you turn all the lights out.' That's when the piano tuner looked down at his own hands and realized his fingers were indeed exploring the orifices of Mandibolo's severed head as Gostremsky finally understood with horror that his hands, too, had been severed by the piano lid. His stumps spurt blood like the ebb and flow of a Bach fugue in E minor as he cried, 'My hands, my beautiful piano tuning hands,' whereupon, from inside the piano came the voice of Mandibolo again, shouting, 'Ah, put a sock in it you sissy-pants before I bite your fingers off.' Then, Mandibolo became quiet as the head finally realized it was dead and should just shut up. Gostemsky's severed hands though, still continued to move, trying to pluck out a sonata on the piano strings but it sounded like Beethoven dropping dried dog feces on an out-of-tune harpsichord."
With that tragedy fresh in the reader's mind, Ms. Williams pulls no punches as she then has Luiz Mandibolo, distracted by his vegetable dicing fantasies and thoughts of his father's sudden passing, not notice a sharp turn in the country road and he crashes his silver Ferrari into the rock face of a narrow gorge that divides a couple of sheep farms with its towering cliffs, roiling river and ancient burial ground for palaeolithic fish and chips. The car bursts into flames, as befitting a fully gassed-up Ferrari (no mean feat with gas prices in Britain these days) and Mandibolo, trapped in his seat and with a brain contusion the size of Babe Ruth's RBI stats from 1922, is close to being burned to a crisp. That's when the plot takes a turn for the erotic when from a nearby animal sanctuary, Holly Forge, who had been tending an injured wombat, hears the crash and comes rushing over on her three-wheeled animal sanctuary rescue scooter, the little siren on its handlebars wailing like a midget banshee that's just stepped on a thumbtack.
Quickly assessing the situation Holly strips off her halter top "revealing her full breasts as seductive as ripe fruit." She uses the halter top to bat out the flames and then pull Mandibolo to safety. Her years of experience at the animal sanctuary have provided her with an exceptional knowledge of first aid and with not a moment to lose, she ties some rope to Mandibolo's leg and the other end to her rescue scooter and then drags him back to her house through the dirt and weeds, the better to get him into her makeshift animal hospital where she can tend to his injuries and the new wounds caused by the scooter dragging.
It's here where I have a bone to pick with the author because when you have an opening chapter as riveting and realistic as this one, it only hurts your plot when you then have Holly compare human and wombat physiology as she bandages Mandibolo's wounds. Also, I have a problem with "breasts as seductive as ripe fruit." I don't find ripe fruit or any fruit for that matter seductive. Liver and onions, yes. Pickled cabbage, absolutely but breasts compared to ripe fruit is about seductive as a goiter covered in lint. As the author writes:
"'Marsupial or mammal,' Holly pondered as her wondrous breasts hove into Mandibolo's view. He lay on a surgical table in the animal sanctuary hospital and on the neighbouring table was either a dead or sleeping kangaroo. Breathing unevenly due to his head contusion, he flung his head back, nostrils flared, eyes half-closed before cupping those breasts in his big hands and rubbing the pads of his thumbs over the distended, swollen peaks of her large, circular nipples.
'What are you thinking about?' Mandibolo asked.
'The difference between marsupial and mammal physiology and how, I believe, they are one and the same,' Holly moaned as Mandibolo now licked and nibbled at her heavy and heaving mammaries. She had used the halter top to bandage his head.
'You are a fascinating woman,' Mandibolo said. 'Tell me, is that kangaroo next to us dead?'
'No, just sleeping. Don't wake him, I'm treating him for insomnia.'
'My trousers are bloody. You will have to take them off. Underneath them you will find my throbbing enchilada. Don't be afraid.'
'Yes, okay,' Holly replied, as if in a trance. Already she could see the thrust of his erection so strong that it seemed as if it would break the teeth of the zipper that constrained it.
Soon, the two mammals met as the marsupial slept, their bodies moving in harmony in a bubble of ecstasy and then the moment came quickly, the shuddering of mind and body, muscle and sinew, his antennae picking up the signals of her moans as he thrust one final time and then felt the desire leave his loins like a rushing, swollen mountain river in the springtime. It was only then that Holly let herself go and felt the torrent of her self-defenses disintegrate like lace panties devoured by a swarm of freshly hatched moths, ravenous after being imprisoned so long in their cocoons."
The fact that Ms. Williams could even conceive that readers would believe that mammals and marsupials might share similar physiological traits, that they might even be descended from the same evolutionary tree, simply astounds me. I mean, I have to hand it to her that she gets right down to the sexual nitty-gritty, not letting a blazing car crash get in the way of the feverish coupling, but still, she loses me with her anatomy lesson not to mention Holly's questionable first aid techniques and a halter top would surely have been far more convincing as a tourniquet rather than as a head bandage. I have a few halter tops I've found in the garbage bins of the condo complex and through various experiments at home have found their tourniquet qualities are exceptional. Wrapped around the head though, especially with a contusion present, their paltry fabric is ill-suited to having any healing properties. Wrapped around the groin area though, the halter top has an amazing effect on controlling blood flow.
As it turns out, Luiz Mandibolo is a billionaire after inheriting the chesterfield business from his father. You wouldn't think selling chesterfields would be that lucrative but it is when they're filled with cocaine. Which is why the business was originally based in the family's home country of Brazil but after his father's death Luiz relocated the company to Chesterfield in Britain so that he could say his chesterfields came from Chesterfield, England and also because the British turned out to be crazy for cocaine and also methamphetamine that Luiz was cooking up in Blemingshire, which is where he was headed when he crashed into the gorge wall. As much as Luiz liked the money he hated chesterfields and was often heard in the local pub deriding chesterfields after six or seven pints but singing the praises of sofas to anyone within earshot. "Are they not one and the same?" a local once asked him only to receive a pint glass across the face, so passionate was Luiz about the differences between these long seats.
Holly was his complete opposite, having come from farm stock and grown up around animals all her life, to the point where she was comfortable sitting down at the dinner table for some bubble and squeak while her father fornicated with a goat against the wainscoting. Her father had been good to her but died when she was young, the tragic result of some faulty plumbing (his own, not the plumbing in the lavatory), but he left her the farm that she, over time, turned into Roscoe's Animal Sanctuary. She named it Roscoe after her father's favourite goat, a tribute to him and the special kinship he had with his barnyard friends.
With these characters' backgrounds firmly in place, Ms. Williams is free to declare rutting season officially open, mammals, marsupials and even amphibians going at it with all the biological diversity this planet has to offer, which is always good for keeping the reader's attention with the dirty bits but as far as plot line goes, well, I've found more intrigue reading the ingredients on a box of Weetabix. It's not for a lack of trying, though. Ms. Williams really sexes up a paragraph but the personalities behind the groins, groans, grunts and grinding are often left wanting, not sexually of course, but emotionally and also socially as they forgo friends and family in the pursuit of their own selfish pleasures and the steamrollering of each others' pelvises like they were laying hot asphalt on a makeshift drag strip on the outskirts of town where soon many will die in the pursuit of amateur racing glory and the aisles of the Super Fresh Mart will demand continual mopping because of the tears their beloved shed late at night while gathering peanut brittle, floor wax and condoms in their eternal sorrow, such is the way it is with love and mourning North American style.
You don't have to be a rocket scientist or nuclear physicist or one of those people who saws the skullcaps off of primates and replaces them with plexiglass coverings so as to examine their working brains under the stimulus of kindergarten toys to know where this story is going. It isn't long before Luiz and Holly are shacked up at Roscoe's Animal Sanctuary, spending most of their days naked and lolling about like three-toed sloths between bursts of orgasmic frenzy. They even try to get the three-toed sloth at the sanctuary (receiving treatment after losing a toe during a skiing accident in the French Alps) to join in some of their hanky-panky in a menage-a-sloth-trois but luckily he was having none of their shenanigans, thus sparing the reader what could have become some very disturbing sex scenes.
This kind of post-coital languor though allows Holly and Luiz to get to know each other better and the author attempts to paint more rounded portraits of the characters beyond the panting and coupling and groin-grinding but I deduce that Ms. Williams is much too in love with the fleshier side of the writing and purple prose soon gives way to purple penis heads, perpendicular nipples and squeaky beds as evidenced in this passage:
"A man in the company of such a beautiful woman can sometimes discover he's a poet against all odds," Luiz said and then laughed crazily. Holly tried to hold on to her common sense as Luiz slipped his fingers under the spaghetti straps of her sun dress. He tugged the dress down to her waist and groaned in a husky undertone, "God, you're beautiful, you sting my eyes like a thousand jellyfish."
"Stop talking," Holly begged as his words turned her to jelly, though whether it was grape, raspberry or Portuguese man o'war was anybody's guess.
"You prefer a man of action. That's good. Because I'm an action guy." As if to prove this point he rolled his thumbs over her nipples as he felt his own arousal pushing impatiently at his zipper, like an elevator stuck between floors at the Eiffel Tower. "You have such sensitive breasts," he murmured, "especially when I do this to your nipples...and when I suck them..." Luiz attacked them like a caveman on a piece of mammoth meat. He made meat sucking sounds as he drawled, "I love my mother, but even she was not an effective chaperone when I went haywire with caveman desire. Let me show you how a caveman behaves." His breathing became ragged sounding very much like cicadas with sprained legs as Holly circled his flat, brown nipples with her fingers. Luiz, in turn, trailed his fingers over the patch of soft, downy hair between her thighs and Holly parted her legs very slightly so that his roving hand could find that special place where she kept her biscuits and gravy. She arched back with a soft moan as he slipped two fingers between the folds of her femininity and then gently began to rub her sensitized clitoris which throbbed and pulsed much like the massive erection Holly took in her hand and controlled like the stick-shift of the Ferrari he had crashed into the cliff wall only days earlier. But this was a different kind of crash they were going to experience, a crash of the senses, of pleasure, of distended buds and pulsating scrotums, all caught in an onslaught of licking and suckling and the slick sound of tongues finding fleshy grooves that were usually only caressed by the rub of underpants and highly-elasticized hosiery but were now set free to be explored in an inexorable path of pleasure and soon wave upon wave of sensation carried them both away, far from planet Earth, far from England, far from insomniac kangaroos and incontinent wombats and when their eyelids finally fluttered shut from the disposal of their bodies' energies and dispersal of fluids, the last ebbs of their simultaneous orgasms causing their limbs to twitch against the beach towels and pneumatic mattress, Luiz said, "That was good intercourse but now I could use a snack."
"Don't be silly," Holly replied. "There's lemonade and cheese right next to your leg. Your mother sent it. I hope we can always be this happy."
"Of course," Luiz replied. "As long as we can always be naked like this amongst nature and convalescing animals and that you could never paint me or my huge erections into a box or that your vagina would cease to be an open field stretching out as far as the horizon or that you would not feel free to make as much noise as you want while I attend to your throbbing breasts and wind-up puppet nipples."
"You are a poet," Holly whispered as her gloriously wanton and womanly scent caught the afternoon breeze like a late passenger boarding a helicopter bound for the Amazon. "Even if my bitterness becomes bigger than my love we will always have a wobbly house, a child born out of wedlock and your trouser pockets driven by demons of lust."
Hogwash! That's right, hogwash! That's all I could think after reading this section and by hogwash I mean the hog that Holly was supposed to wash but neglected to do so when she so selfishly decided to have a lovemaking marathon with Luiz instead. This action might be the most insightful perspective the author offers us into the minds of her characters. Perhaps romance, in Ms. Williams' brain, is just a higher form of selfishness with interlocking penises and vaginas. And nipples protruding like nail heads on a sun-warped patio deck. While a poor unwashed pig grunts for its caregiver, a caregiver too busy doing the pant-less mambo on an air mattress slick with the sweat of sexual exertions and forgetfulness born of misbegotten desire. For Holly has responsibilities to those unfortunate souls who inhabit her animal sanctuary but she seems to forget all about their woes as she sates herself again and again on Luiz's magic horn of fertility.
I was ready to throw this book back in the garbage bin from whence I found it when a sudden plot twist had me back in the story saddle again. If I had spurs on I would've driven them hard into the flanks of this filly and ridden the narrative to a photo finish and maybe picked up a little moolah on a boxed exactor in the process. Sacrificing character depth and motivation for plot action the author, nevertheless, launches the reader into a whirlwind of international intrigue, murder, equestrian sports and baby-making. Holly goes off to Portugal to purchase some cut-rate castrating forceps and emasculators as she's thinking of going into the kangaroo meat business and castration is the logical course to fatten up the marsupials for eventual slaughter but while there she bumps into an old flame, Vladimir Casella, now a famous actor constantly hounded by the paparazzi, his four previous wives and his sixteen children and in Portugal to open the annual sardine festival. Known for his award-winning roles in films such as Penelope's Femur and The Stool Softeners of Strasbourg, he spots Holly as he's sauntering down the red carpet to a premiere of his newest movie, Petri Dish Dreams. They rekindle the old erotic flame, spark up the Bunsen burner of test tube burbling desire and then Holly slinks back to Blemingshire, ashamed and unknowingly pregnant but putting on an innocent poker face for her beloved Luiz, who has been bathing the pig while she was away and even singing the insomniac kangaroo to sleep (all for naught of course since it's about to take the 'big sleep' once Holly butchers it for its meat while it's fitfully sleeping).
Once Holly realizes she's pregnant, at first she thinks of hiding the pregnancy from Luiz and tucking the newborn baby into the pouch of one of her recuperating marsupials and taping a long cardboard snout, feet and ears to its body to pass it off as a genuine kangaroo baby but then realizes, with the amount of mounting of her Luiz has been doing, he would never know the baby wasn't his but Vladimir Casella's instead. So she bathes in the glow of her new found motherhood (which has no similarity to bathing a distressed pig), and when the child is born, Luiz is ecstatic, ignorant of the truth behind their bundle of joy.
Life seems serene at the animal sanctuary with baby Fenton and his adoring parents but as is usually the case with these pastoral settings something ugly is writhing and rising in the muck and manure of the moors. Unbeknownst to Luiz, Holly has been importing diseased marsupials from Australia into England (completely against British marsupial import laws), to fatten them up for her kangaroo and wallaby meat trade, covering up her nefarious scheme by launching the first-ever equestrian chesterfield jumping competition (the chesterfields supplied by the Mandibolo Chesterfield Company of course), and top riders from around the world fly to Blemingshire to compete with their horses in jumping all manner and styles of chesterfields (and the occasional sofa and loveseat).
Meanwhile, Luiz Mandibolo is not who he seems and one day he takes Holly aside out back of the kangaroo pen and tells her bluntly in this scintillating passage:
"My name is not Luiz Mandibolo. I am actually Luiza Gomez a.k.a. Cecelia Follone, a raven-haired beauty who speaks fluent Portuguese."
"But...but...I don't understand!" Holly cried. "Isn't your father Antonio Schmitz Mandibolo and don't you own the Mandibolo Chesterfield Company? And aren't you a man because if you're not, what is that thing you've been sticking into my femininity?"
"Holly, my dear Holly. Where to begin? Well, let me start at the beginning. It's true that Antonio Mandibolo is my father but in name only and his last name was originally Follone. For my mother, Madinga, had an affair with a wealthy Brazilian toupee and wig maker by the name of Clifford de Sauza Gomez, after they met when he came to measure my father for a hairpiece. I was the result of that lusty fling but my father never knew and considered me his own daughter. My mother died soon after I was born when a special wig Clifford had made for her caught fire while she was serving barbequed meat skewers to my father and his cronies while they were playing dominoes. They tried to put out the fire by beating her head with meat sticks but alas, by the time they had snuffed out the flames it was too late. And yes, I was born a girl and grew up to be a ravishing woman, impetuous and privileged thanks to my father's cocaine-stuffed chesterfield business but I turned my back on the company, training to be a saucier instead because nothing satisfied me more than seeing the look on men's faces when they watched me dicing vegetables in high heels and constructing perfect red wine reductions and organ meat-based gravies which I still consider to be my specialty. But my father would hear nothing of it and pressured me back into the family business by threatening to cut off my inheritance and then he sent me as a ride-along on a cocaine heist to ensure the security of the stolen goods since he didn't trust his hired thugs but he ended up double-crossing the Mafia and I was forced to get a sex-change to hide my identity for fear of a reprisal killing. I came to Europe and finally settled here in Chesterfield, changing the name of the company from Follone to Mandibolo and branching out into methamphetamine and loveseats. The money was easy and so were the women who fell my way, that is, until I met you and fell head over heels in love. But now Mafia hitmen have learned of my whereabouts and sex-change and are gunning for me. I fear for both you and baby Fenton because these men will stop at nothing and will show no mercy when it comes to me and my family."
"Luiz, I don't understand. How can you be such a man with legs that show their muscular strength beneath the fabric of your faded black jeans while you walk seductively along the Turkish carpeting and satisfy me as a woman so completely when you yourself are also a woman too?" Behind Holly a half-light came filtering in through the majestic Dutch-elm diseased trees and from the pen came the grunts and barks of equally diseased kangaroos and wallabies, waiting to be slaughtered for their meat.
"Haven't you noticed, Holly, that my nipples are bigger, darker, more succulent than any man's should ever be, as if readying themselves for suckling a baby. As for my penis, it came off of a well-endowed dead drug lord in the San Paulo morgue. I had it put on properly in Switzerland along with further hormone treatments and various aftershaves. The result, I think you could say, is most convincing."
"I've had a dead drug lord's penis inside me," Holly exclaimed. "How exciting! But I too have something to confess. Our child, Fenton, is the result of the congress between myself and Vladimir Casella, the famous actor. It was a momentary lapse of judgement and for this I apologize. But my heart belongs to you, Luiz, and to you alone. I hope you can accept Fenton as your own child and find it in your heart to forgive me so that our loins can continue to meet as friends, lovers and spiritual allies. I promise to eat any internal organ sauce you throw at me." Perhaps it was these last words that won Luiz over, playing to the suppressed saucier inside of him and they threw their arms around each other, their hearts beating together and soon they could only express their love for each other in torrents of monosyllabic mutterings and mutual nipple sucking.
In the opening of this review I did promise you, the readers, an explanation of how babies and bears are not so dissimilar. Well, baby Fenton was called into duty, dressed in a tiny bear suit and put to the task of whipping up the crowd into a frenzy at the equestrian chesterfield jumping competitions. Part of his job was mauling the spectators, not a far stretch for him considering he was teething. This would seem to be a sunny spot to end the book on top of Luiz and Holly's newly regained love but Ms. Williams has other things in mind. I won't give it away but don't be surprised to find Mafioso hit men squaring off against crazed kangaroos pumped up on methamphetamine, a baby dressed as a bear chewing his father's head off in a kind of Oedipus Rex bear complex scenario, government agencies trying to stop an illegal diseased marsupial trade and another sex change operation but by whom, well, you'll have to read the book to find out.
Truly, despite a disappointing beginning, this book turned out to be a real page turner, even if it's not a semen-encrusted page-sticker, which is no mean feat when you're trying to concentrate on stroking your penis, reading and checking on your canned ravioli on the hotplate simultaneously while your landlady's cat, in heat, claws at your door and yowls like she's on a hot tin roof. Or hot aluminum siding in this case. We can only ask so much from our romantic literature and Ms. Williams, in the end, fulfills all these criteria in spades, not withstanding the cat-in-heat urine spray, the burned Chef Boyardee ravioli and the phone call from the collection agency at the most ecstatic point of the evening. But isn't that what romance is all about. The ability to withstand and endure all manner of obstacles thrown in its way, a Romeo and Juliet love story playing out in a heart-rending tragic finale or as another great couple, this time of the silver screen once said, "We'll always have Paris. And diarrhea. And careless whispers. And hairless nipples. And Nazis. And sheep's head stew." Well, with Ms. Williams now in the romance game you might want to add incontinent kangaroos to that list. And it's true what they say that love conquers all, even if you're a chesterfield and drug kingpin from Brazil who has undergone a sex change and is smuggling cocaine in the pouches of over-the-hill and ailing marsupials that are bound for the slaughterhouse to be turned into canned luncheon meat. Now if only Holly had washed that hog this book would be getting five out of five stars instead of only four. But there's always room for improvement when it comes to harnessing the power behind the loins of desire and though I am a romantic at heart I also believe in tough love when it comes to unwashed animals. Especially around their nipples.
Sunday, 6 July 2014
Janitorial work may be my bread and butter and erotic adventure the deli meat slices in the centre but there's also the mentoring side of me, willing and able to recognize and nurture erotic janitorial talent when I see it and assist such persons in channeling their energies in wholesomely erotic ways while avoiding the creepiness factor (for instance, mopping in only a jockstrap and orthopedic shoes or suggestively licking Windex from the lobby windows while tenants are entering the building). Instead, I teach them to embrace the more subtle and sensual nature of the work by incorporating their natural God-given talents into seductive body language while cleaning, using crouch-and-polish exercises at home to strengthen their loins and showcase their buttocks or practicing fluidly switching from right to left hand during vacuuming to increase hip sway and bring out the best in their neck veins. Additionally, I have a further at-home-study program called "Making your sweat work for you," but it's not for neophytes but instead for the chosen few who I deem ready and worthy to take janitorial arts to the next step of erotic delight. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a student who is able to succeed at this high a level and withstand the rigors of my training regimen and the few who I did approach in janitorial supply stores or at bus shelters that I believed might be capable of realizing their erotic janitorial destiny tended to pelt me with half-eaten hot dogs or whatever else they had in hand. One fellow spritzed me with some kind of air freshener called Brazilian Carnival that left me feeling like my lungs were being constricted by a thong bikini and the only party I could see were the specks of bright, white lights dancing behind the corneas of my partially blinded eyes. That didn't stop me from admonishing him and passing on a bit of sage advice when I told him to his face (I think it was his face as I was blinded by the spray), "If you listen to me I could put that Brazilian carnival in your pants instead of keeping it penned up under pressure in an aerosol can), whereupon he hit me again, this time unfortunately with a fist rather than a delicate and exotic scent and right in the left eye where I'd already been blinded to add insult to injury or maybe it's the other way around. Either way, they both hurt. I told another promising young intern I met as he squatted to unlock his bike, "You have a fine set of haunches. Have you ever considered a career in the janitorial arts? I could show you how to attain erotic heights most men can only dream of and few will ever achieve." He too hit me, this time in the shin with his bike lock. Some people apparently just can't take a compliment. I'm also amazed how people can be so adverse to learning how to have women eating out of the palm of their hand, whether that hand is holding sunflower seeds, kidney beans or liver pate canapes with maybe a little sprig of parsley on top. I'd eat out of anyone's palm if they offered me that.
Be that as it may, I am not discouraged in my endeavors and when it comes to the affairs of other janitors who are not as well versed in the erotic side of the business as myself, I pride myself on maintaining an open mind when it comes to the peccadilloes of fellow cleaning associates. Nevertheless, there is one episode recently related to me that tested even my erotic boundaries. I'm not sure if I found the story distasteful, unsanitary or just reckless endangerment that might have resulted in a penis being pulled asunder from its owner and if this piques your curiosity, then by all means read on. Likewise, if you find yourself feeling a little sickened by this thought, stop reading, go outside and smell some roses or carpetweed or bramble thickets or whatever else might grow in your area or in the empty lot behind your rooming-house.
The story begins when my good friend, roofer, life coach, loving divorcee and soon-to-be-author of the self-help book, Shingles of Wisdoms, Ed Smeeley Jr. dropped by the other day to share a couple of cans of pork and beans and a 40-ouncer of malt liquor that we spruced up with 7-UP and one of those pine-tree shaped air fresheners you hang on the rear-view mirror of your car and that we let steep in the cocktail to add a zippy, fresh scent and flavour to what would have been an otherwise run-of-the-mill drink. Curious, I asked him if he had come up with any new wisdoms for his book.
"Funny you should ask because just the other night as I was laying in my army cot at the halfway house I was struck with this thought. Listen to this and let me know what you think. 'Life is very much like finding a decomposing squirrel in your eavestroughing. Nasty and disgusting, especially when you have to scoop the body, guts and hair out bare-handed but afterwards your gutters run clean and clear like a mountain stream and your soul feels, just like the gutters, rejuvenated and alive unless of course you contract rabies or some kind of fly-larvae disease from handling rotting squirrel innards and bug-eggs hatch in your brain and then, well, you just go insane and will only eat fresh dog meat until you're institutionalized.'"
I was suitably impressed and told him so. Trooper that Ed is, even with the restraining orders against him from his ex-wife and also being banned from various hardware stores for threatening to "nail-gun the next son-of-a-bitch who criticizes my roofing techniques to my face," Ed has proven that if your heart is as large as a football field or dirigible or the pancreas of an elephant, anything is possible and wisdom will flow much like the stagnant water in a gutter once it is freed from the rotting guts of inhumanity (in the form of decomposing animal bodies) that once restrained it. He also told me that you could swap the dead squirrel for an equally dead and decomposing raccoon or rat or any other type of rodent or verminous mammal, making this "shingle of wisdom," very flexible in its philosophical approach and easily applicable to any person or situation.
"Fire away," I replied and then was sorry I phrased it in such a way as Ed was holding a nail-gun in his hand and he's been known to have had a trigger finger in the past as well as a Pavlovian response to specific stimuli or commands. Luckily he put it down and then we refreshed our drinks with a few more dunks of the rear-view mirror pine-scented air freshener tree into our glasses of malt liquor and 7-UP before Ed Smeeley Jr. related this, on the surface, sordid story.
"What's his real name," I inquired, just out of curiosity since I was in the janitor brotherhood.
"It's also Reg," Ed replied.
"Oh, yes, okay, go on please."
"Anyway, Reg was working this office building, very new development, twenty-storeys and high-tech security everywhere. This joint had more cameras than a Japanese bus tour. Which is why I can't understand what Reg did. Now I'm not one to judge or get between a man and the object of his desire but the phrase "get a room," never made as much sense to me as in this case. It seems that Reg, who has always been a randy kind of fellow..."
"His name's Reg Randy?" I was astounded at this man with two first names.
"No, no, he's just a randy guy, you know, lecherous and nuts, in a sexual kind of way."
"Yes, yes, of course, I understand. Go on with this randy Reg story."
"So Reg, he decides, I don't know exactly why, that he wants to have sex with his vacuum cleaner. The one he uses in the office building. And not only that, he's going to mate with this machine right there in the hallway on the 20th floor, after office hours of course but still under the watchful eye of at least two different floor cameras storing the stuff on to the security hard drive. This doesn't deter him, perhaps because he's lust-crazed or else that he's completely unaware that he's being recorded or he's in love. You know what they say, love is blind, even under the unblinking security camera eye and old Reg seemed to prove this point by engaging in a variety of sexual positions with his vacuum cleaner using various attachments when the mood called for it and basically giving even the author of the Kama Sutra something to think about. I mean him and the vacuum did the 'beast with two backs,' the 'depraved bingo-caller of Irkutsk,' the 'pie-eyed back-hoe operator working overtime,' and even the 'morbid mongoose trapped in a trashcan with a starving cobra on a busy Calcutta street.' And all this with his SEBO X5. I mean we're talking top-of-the-line West German engineering. This machine has enough suction power to rip a man's penis from his body but it didn't stop Reg from sating himself in every way possible with a vacuum cleaner and with no regard for his own personal safety."
"Did you say a SEBO X5?" I asked, even more astounded than seconds earlier when I thought the guy's name was Reg Randy. "My boss has one of those that he let me use once. A beautiful machine that makes my Windsor Sensor XP-18 pale in comparison. It's like the difference between pushing a plow or driving a tractor. But this much I know. That thing can dismember a member in less time than it takes to say 'September, October, November, December,' and all without triggering the clog light."
"Well, you know these types of things better than me," Ed said as he nonchalantly nail-gunned a June bug that was distracting him, piercing its carapace with ease and turning it into just so much bug guts on my windowsill. "Anyway, it wasn't long before someone during a routine review of the security footage found old Reg there rutting with the vacuum cleaner. As you can imagine the footage made the rounds and there's one scene folks were talking about where Reg decided to insert the hose attachment into his asshole with the vacuum running full speed and the security personnel and property management people are still shaking their heads wondering how he didn't manage to suck out his own intestines."
"Fascinating," I said. "Even as a janitor who is no stranger to erotic adventure this story taxes even my imagination when it comes to the coupling of man and machine and yet, I can't say, I'm completely unaware of these affections. But I have a theory about all this," I continued, trying to change the subject from my small admission.
"Yes, a theory. That's good. I need a "shingle of wisdom" to come out of this story."
"I believe that randy Reg wanted to be caught. I think that secretly he wanted to speak out about the love that dares not speak its name, namely that of the love between a man and his machine and maybe, lost for words or for a way to illustrate his misunderstood desires, he found an outlet to broadcast it to the world, or at least to a property management company and some overweight and sleepy security guards with Cheezie dust on their fingertips and computer keyboards. Reg is a pioneer, a trendsetter, one who breaks the bonds and constraints of society, not afraid to show his love for his vacuum cleaner and be damned with anyone who frowns upon it. In the future, no doubt, we will laugh about our uneasiness about this forbidden love but right now Reg stands alone, proud and completely dust-free, including his internal cavities and that can be a dusty place, depending on your love life and how often you bathe. Should a child be produced from such a union you would soon hear people change their tune quickly as the thought of having offspring that are both endearing and adept at carpet-cleaning through genetic mutation so that there's no appliance go-between not to mention use for electricity means a new generation of vacuum cleaner babies. It would revolutionize the carpet-cleaning industry. Isn't that the future we were originally promised along with hovercrafts, hamburger patty-stackers for easy freezer storage, sheep that shear themselves and socks that stay up in a hurricane and are also resistant to snakebites but still look stylish on the golf course, even when beneath them lie throbbing varicose veins. In this sense, Reg is actually ahead of his time. He stands alone as a man who has the foresight and courage to find love and pleasure where most others would suffer only embarrassment, considerable pain and perhaps even dismemberment and years from now we will thank men like Reg as our vacuum cleaner babies whisk around us and sexually transmitted diseases are all but eliminated as we find erotic fulfillment with re-purposed hoses and nozzles."
"Hot damn!" Ed exclaimed. "Leave it to you, Dr. Haltiwanger, to see the big picture here. You've opened my mind to a whole new world of possibilities. The second I get home I'm gonna get out the old vacuum cleaner and give it a try."
"I hope it's not a SEBO X5. Unless you want to be circumcised."
"Nah, it's a Dirt Devil and I think I'm really gonna discover its devilish side."
"Do I sense a 'shingle of wisdom' coming on?"
"I'll let you know after I conceive some vacuum cleaner babies. My ex-wife will be jealous as hell. She always wanted children so wait until she gets a load of my offspring."
"Atta boy, Ed, got get'em."
"I'm naming my first vacuum cleaner child after you."
"I'm honoured. And if you see your friend Reg, tell him not to be discouraged or give up his janitorial dreams. We should be thanking people like him, not shaming them."
Once Ed had left, the pine tree-shaped alcohol-soaked rear-view mirror air freshener clenched between his teeth, I spent a little time ruminating over my own little infatuation I had once with a vacuum cleaner. Some might even say it was more than an infatuation and I would be inclined to agree for I fell hard for this voluptuous machine. It was an Electrolux, canister-style with the long hose and adjoining metal tube that connected with the various attachments and that you used to pull the canister on its squeaky wheels around the room. There was something about this Swedish-made machine, so different from the powerful West German creations with their aggressive personalities, that captivated me. Cool, even aloof in its Nordic way and yet the hum of her motor was like a meadowlark's song in the spring echoing across the fjord, if that meadowlark had laryngitis or a smoker's cough, and though I knew she felt self-conscious about her bulkier canister body, the svelte lines of the upright American and German-made models did nothing for me. And the newest models these days with their bag-less technology and see-through bodies have left nothing to the imagination and taken away the mystery and romance of dating. I mean if your future bride-to-be were to show up at your parent's house in nothing but a bra and panties to go to dinner and a movie how would you feel about spending the rest of your life with her? I, for one, like a little clothing between my loins and my beloved's body, if only to create a buffer zone to temper the passions and in the case of a vacuum cleaner, to prevent any burns to my jiggly parts from an overheated motor-casing. Eroticism is all about the unveiling and if there's nothing left to unveil then, much like already opened mail or the shell without the snail, the mystery of what lies within is as thin as the skin-of-your-teeth escape you made when your boss almost caught you peeing in the drain of the condo complex boiler room during your coffee break. Or the paper-thin excuse you created when your landlady admonished you after she snooped and opened your letter from the collection agency.
It was with this sudden wave of nostalgia and the lugubrious memory of unrequited vacuum cleaner love, along with the warm feelings flooding my body from my initiation and uncontested membership into the janitorial brotherhood, that sent me rushing from my rooming-house and off to the nearest janitorial supply shop. This was a visit that was long overdue.
"Six bottles of your best," I bellowed as I entered the store, "and throw in a couple of wet and dry mop heads, a rubber door wedge and two cans of your finest stainless steel polishing spray." I was in an expansive mood and I wanted to extend it to everyone within the shop, be they members of the brotherhood or just those on the fringes who wanted to rub shoulders or catch a glimpse of those initiated into the secret sect and the alchemical products they used to magically turn grime into gold. Don't let the term "elbow grease" fool you for it's really about the brain and not the body when it comes to janitorial duty. I've encountered fish oil on carpeting, barnacle-like dried mucous adhering to hand railings, dog poop in the stairways and bloodied cotton balls strewn like diseased confetti at the wedding of Satan's sister-in-law, Edna Rachowsky, but it wasn't elbow grease that helped me through those moments but rather my psychological and spiritual make up. This is something all of us in the brotherhood understand, which is why I said to Vern (that's what his name tag said), behind the counter, "Vern, on top of my six bottles of your finest give everyone in the store a bottle on me."
"Do I know you?" Vern asked, his eyes scrunched up like a wise sea turtle's and then he said, "I don't know what six bottles you're talking about but it'll cost $141.50 and I'll throw in a rubber door wedge for free."
"What?" I yelled, confusion pulling at my face as if there were fishhooks imbedded in my cheeks, yanking them down like a five-pound trout on the line, diving down to freedom at the bottom of a lake that, in the end, it would never live to see, instead spending its last remaining gill-sucking breaths flapping and flopping at the bottom of a dinghy gazing up at a sky that could only signal death. "I'm part of the brotherhood," I said, my voice filled with the conspiratorial tone that only janitors, Masons and out-of-work Aztec priests would pick up on. "As a fellow janitor I believe there's no exchange of money."
"Are you crazy? You think I give this shit away for free? And what th'fuck kind'a brotherhood you talking' about here?" Vern asked. "You some kind'a terrorist or faggot or Muslim faggot terrorist or pedophile priest with the Pope's number in your wallet or you one'a them guys that sacrifices goats in some Satanic cult 'cause if you're any one of those things then you're not getting the free door wedge."
"Now, Vern," I said, emphasizing his name in order to strike a chord of friendliness and familiarity before he could strike me, "I'm not one of those wise guys that comes in off the street with no regard or respect for the janitorial arts and just looking for a free hand-out to get the semen, vomit, poultry and pizza stains out of his carpeting. No, Vern, I'm a bona fide custodian or concierge as the French might say, two condo complexes under my belt and my hands so calloused from mopping that at night I have to soak them in pickle brine and Oil of Olay just to soften the callouses for popping. I'm not trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes or pull the wool rug from under your feet or shear the sheep to make the wool in the first place that is then used to make the rug that I'm not going to pull out from under you and in the future there will be self-shearing sheep so that job will become easier over time. No, Vern, that's not the type of game I'm playing. I'm here to stock my cleaning larder with the finest ingredients known to janitors in the Western hemisphere, the better to serve the fine tenants of 652 Foxwilde Ave. and bring a shine, not only to their floors and walls and railings, but to the lives of the residents themselves, something I can see reflected in the eyes of both young and old or in the case of Mrs. Wong in 205, whose cataracts already give off a perpetual shine, seeing her smile so broadly I can count the food particles stuck between her decaying teeth and even discern the origin of each miniscule speck, be it soy bean, chicken foot or duck beak. That's the kind of commitment and passion I bring to the job and if this passion then translates to erotic adventures, be they of the animate or inanimate kind, it's of no planning on my part but only the result of my talents, sweat glands and subsequent release of pheromones that send many in the building to bed at night tossing and turning with thoughts of unfulfilled desires, much like a wet mop head that needs to be squeezed."
"If I give you a free door wedge will you leave?" Vern asked. I couldn't tell if the look of hope that crossed his face was from my inspiring speech or the fact that I might actually vacate the premises.
"I could settle for that, I guess, but I have one last question first." I was feeling uncharacteristically brave considering the situation but I was determined that nothing would stand between me and the brotherhood.
"Will you get lost after that because otherwise I'm gonna haft'a hit you and I'm already on parole so I don't need to stir up that pile of shit."
"Vern," I said, locking eyes to bring him over to my side and suddenly noticing his teardrop tattoos. "I'm looking for a vacuum cleaner strong enough to tear a man's penis from his body but unfortunately I can't afford a SEBO X-5. Any suggestions?"
"Okay," Vern said and he reached under the counter and threw a rubber door wedge at me. It bounced off my forehead and landed near the front door. "Get the fuck outta here right now."
"No, no, Vern, you misunderstand. I'm not looking to suck off my own penis, I'm just looking for a machine powerful enough to perform the task without me having to pay those fancy European-made prices. All you have to say is West German engineering these days and you're paying more than seven nights in Waikiki, luau included."
Vern, throwing caution and probation to the wind started rounding the corner of his counter, rage or else high blood pressure colouring his face. I, on the other hand, decided to air on the side of caution and so, retrieving my free door wedge, I beat a hasty retreat out the door. I stopped to rest a minute and catch my breath leaning on a trashcan when, with my acute peripheral vision that I've honed during my custodial practice so that no particle of dirt or dust might escape me, I noticed a man had followed me out of the shop and was beckoning me over. He held no weapon and on his face was an expression that promised clandestine information. I hastened over and then we stood next to each other, just two strangers admiring the flow of traffic and the odd dog defecating.
"Listen," he said, out of the side of his mouth, neither of us making eye contact in case Vern or his henchmen were watching from behind the store's smudged plate glass. "I couldn't help but overhear what you said in there and I have one thing to say to you and I won't say it again so listen closely. Kenmore Whispertone available in both upright and canister versions."
"Whispertone?" I whispered.
"Listen, don't let the name fool you. It'll strip the foreskin from your dick like skin from a chicken neck while you're whispering sweet nothings into its hose assembly. I too have tasted the forbidden love and loin-bursting ecstasy of vacuum cleaner suction and the Whispertone will haunt your dreams for days to come."
"Listen, everyone misunderstands me. I'm not looking to copulate with the machine, I just want..."
"Shhh," he put up a hand and cut me off. "I understand this is hard to talk about. Say no more, just remember Kenmore Whispertone. And wear a condom if you buy a refurbished one." And then he was gone as quickly as he had come, which wasn't that quickly actually because I could still see him shuffling down the street, his arthritic knees a testament to the buckling pressures they must have withstood as he tasted the forbidden pleasures of his vacuum cleaner and emptied his seed again and again deep into the canister of his Kenmore Whispertone.
I was left on the street corner pondering the erotic life of a janitor, its wanton ways and whimsies and the world-weariness that accompanies the dark romantic obligations that come with janitorial duty. And then I thought of Ed Smeeley Jr. and his much needed "shingle of wisdom" for this type of occasion and in a flash, there on the street corner, it came to me. "The weltschmerz of life is but a rubber door wedge keeping the door open to possibilities, and whether that adds up to love, despair or banishment from the janitorial supply store you'll never be content until you walk through that door, either to make love to a vacuum cleaner or be beaten with a wet mop head by a parolee." You can nail that "shingle of wisdom" to your roof and smoke your pipe comfortably beneath it.