Visual Riddles: Justin’s Mess

It had been a busy Sunday. I illegally swam to an unnamed island to check up on a stash of hidden books, purchased bacon, attended Port Moody’s Car Free Day, and roommate made a large quantity of vegan nachos, I baked a loaf of molasses bread, and baked my first loaf of molasses bread based only on a conversation with my mother a few days before. That same night, my roommate made a large quantity of vegan nachos. The day before I helped my roommate set up our place for an additional inhabitant, and then accompanied her to purchase a cornsnake named Bo from a girl named Ava Cats. Not only were there now 5 non-humans in our household (6 if you count Pechulee, who (according to my roommate) is the rat’s pet spider), but there were now at least 3 corpses in our freezer (Ava Cats had given my roommate two starter mice, along with Bo’s favourite glove…)

But in the middle of all that, walking from Hastings down Commercial Drive on my way to get bacon, I came across a strange and perhaps concerning scene. Notes for high school Math and Physics courses were scattered on the sidewalk along with a boot, a glove, and a coffee cup.


The kid’s name was Justin, which did sound like the name of a kid that would just drop a bunch of shit on the sidewalk and run away with one boot, one glove, and no coffee in the middle of the summer. I wondered why he had stuff for Grade 11 Physics and Grade 9 Math. Was he cheating off the wrong kid, or was an older kid making him do their assignments? Maybe he was doing his sister’s homework? Or she was doing his?

There was a strange printed document in the mix that identified him as ‘obsessive, messy, talkative and repetitive’ — was this a teacher’s evaluation? Did she share it with his parents? It also stated that he ‘gives almost nothing to the world but gets so much back’ — was this a mad libs? A self or peer analysis? ‘Fears failure, the loss of technology, and the death of a loved one.’ I can picture an exasperated teacher or assistant prompting him in any way possible to just get him to finish the assignment so they could get on with their lives. ‘He would also like hate to disappear’ seemed to be included as an afterthought — perhaps because their guidelines said to end on a positive note. Who is this kid? What kind of assignment was this? Did the teacher really sent that to his parents?

But all that was almost beside the point. Why was someone walking around with this kid’s Math and Physics binder in the middle of August? Where did they head off to with only one boot? Or were they just transporting the boot? And if so, with or without the other one?

And why carry a winter glove in the summer? Why leave one behind? WHAT WAS GOING ON?

For some reason I picture this kid walking down the street on a hot sunny day in full winter gear and BAM! into the wall.  Some thug charged from the other side of the street because he didn’t like what the kid was wearing — knocked him right of his boots, gloves thrown free, beloved Math and Physics notes flying everhwere like so many doves in a shitty John Woo movie.  The kid bounces up and makes a run for it and knocks the coffee out of a pedestrian’s hand.  The coffee stains the thug’s pants and he terminates the pursuit to try and get the stain out, because those were his nice pants.  The pedestrian is not reimbursed for their coffee.

Or maybe the kid’s Mom was driving him to summer school and said something he didn’t like, so he freaked out and threw everything out the window of the moving car. Including her coffee. It spashed onto some big dude, so they didn’t stop to pick it up and just sped away…

I don’t know. I wonder if Justin knew the guy with the cleaver and the toy airplane

BOOKHUNT: white whales, revoked hours, and first edition misses

For whatever reason, about a month after learning about Spider World by Colin Wilson, I found myself in California; digging holes, cleaning toilets, and building things for a New Yorker who wasn’t sure what he was trying to build.

And accounting. I was also doing some accounting.

In my free time, I was scouring the book stores and comic book stores for treasure. In the comic shops I was looking for a copy of a comic book that I’d lent out to a buddy who pretty much disappeared and whom I never saw again; and in the bookstores, I was looking for Spider World, by Colin Wilson.

Pleasantly, on the OC bus system, one can acquire a day pass for only $5. I recommend you do so not on Sunday when service is cut back more significantly than you might expect.

While searching the various book stores in the area, I came across one that seemed to hold particular promise: The Book Junction. I got the impression that it would be a dumpy place loaded with poorly organized volumes, and a lot of science fiction and fantasy. A book could hide in a place like that for years. It didn’t have a website, so their hours were not obvious, and I had to resort to Yelp — and ohhh, what a delight was their Yelp page. I have downloaded it in case it’s ever taken off the internet.

Now, I have experienced my fair share of eccentric and ornery book dealers. I was chased away from a magazine stand at the bus station in La Paz, there was a vendor in Ireland who was trying very hard to discourage me from purchasing anything, and then there was the guy who put gardening books in the science fiction section…

It seemed appropriate that I should go to this place. To this place, that was never open. To this man, who would not open his doors for eager customers, but was willing to run outside and yell at them for quietly lamenting to each other that it was never open — pedestrians that dared express a desire to enter the shop and purchase something!! (There was more than one review speaking to the unpleasantness of the customer service)

It seemed that I was destined to meet this unbalanced bookshop owner, and surely it would be here that I would find Spider World, by Colin Wilson. Surely, I would find the book, he would refuse to sell it, and I would have to challenge him to a duel of riddles or Pacman or a knife-fight to the death. Either way, the book would be mine.

But when I got there, on a very slow-bus Sunday I saw that the ‘Sunday’ line on their “Store Hours” sign had been angrily (I assume angrily) crossed out with a thick black marker. I was leaving the next evening, but of course they were closed on Monday as well.

i was sure that one day I would set foot into that bookstore, and look through books, experience bad customer service, and face down the owner. But today was not that day.

And that made sense, because if this was where I was going to find the book, it seemed far too early to succeed. After all, the Pequod didn’t find Moby Dick right away. Instead it encountered a series of vessels that had survived successively closer encounters with the white whale. The last vessel they met was only limping away from the encounter, with a final warning. And only then did Ahab come face to face with his nemesis, where he finally met with the beast’s full wrath (at least, that’s how I remember it).

After all, it was only a few days earlier that I had been in a bookstore with a friend of mine — a bookstore that wasn’t even on my map, but tucked away near another book store I’d scouted.

This place had all kinds of old and beautiful stuff. Earlier I’d suggested Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel to my friend — and there, in a glass case was a first edition copy of it! Somehow I’d missed what was right beside it.

We kept browsing until I gasped loudly, “Kimberly! Kimberly!” She rushed over.

And there was Spider World: The Tower by Colin Wilson. Right next to Clan of the Cave Bear. The man took it out of the case for me and let me look at. “This is a first edition.”


“How much…?” I asked hesitantly.


That, for me, was far too much — well out of my price range. No, the book hunt requires that I find a relatively cheap used copy. It is cheating to just throw a bunch of money at the quest. I couldn’t buy this one. It wasn’t in my budget, and it wasn’t the way of the bookhunt. It was there to show me yet again that the book really does exist. That it is out there, somewhere. Waiting for me.

“Well, it was only printed in the UK. Good luck find it!”

Indeed. If it really was only printed in the UK, then the copies lying around North America would be sparse indeed. How rare was that pulpy paperback I’d seen all those years ago?

Our first chances — the ones we often miss, are usually the easy ones. It’s those second and third chances, once we know what we want, that are much much harder. But I suppose things wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if there wasn’t something out there, pushing back against a determined effort, and the focus that comes with the frustration of past mistakes.

No, this was lovely. I have dreamed the book. I have discovered the book. And now I have seen the book. Next, I must have the book, in my hands. And then I will read the book.

And so I went to bed happy that night. A little closer to that missed opportunity, all those years ago. The book was not yet in my hands, and I would keep looking.


Vancouver Fringe Festival 2018 – Banned in the USA

Banned In The USA poster for Edmonton promo.jpgBanned in the USA took a painful hour not getting to the point, and then went 15 minutes over its scheduled time.  This may be the worst fringe performance I have ever seen.


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Vancouver Fringe Festival 2018 – Tomatoes Tried to Kill Me But Banjos Saved My Life

tomatoes-tried-to-kill-meTomatoes Tried to Kill Me, But Banjos Saved My Life is a show in the true spirit of Fringe.  The performance will put a smile on your face, leaving you glad and happy.

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Vancouver Fringe Festival 2018 – Poly Queer Love Ballad

A 75 minute Slam Poetry Musical, that is good even if you don’t like Slam Poetry, Musicals, or 75 minute shows.  poly-queer-Love_Ballad_0202-5

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Vancouver Fringe Festival 2018 – Jon Bennett: How I Learned to Hug

how-i-learned-to-hugLikely the funniest show at this year’s festival, Jon Bennett: How I Learned to Hug is a touching and hilarious must-see at the 2018 Vancouver Fringe Festival.

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