Archive for travel

Funny sign

Langley sign

Glover Rd., Langley, BC.

Victoria, BC …

… was wonderful. At Munro’s Books I bought a book of translations from Sappho by Willis Barnstone. My favourite lines speak to me because of their (understanding + accepting) disdain:  “What farm girl dolled up in a farm dress/ captivates your wits/ not knowing how to pull her rags down to her ankles?”

BC HEAP conference

On Friday I had the honour of meeting a wonderful group of people, the British Columbia Health and Education Administrative Professionals (BC HEAP), giving a presentation on best correspondence practices in the current workplace. I treated the 150 or so attendees to a vivid hitch-hiking story – yet to be written up for basil.CA – so it’s appropriate for any new readers who attended that conference in Victoria to find another tale from the road below, even if the ending is more bittersweet than it was in the one they heard.

God Bless Molly Crabapple


Molly Crabapple‘s only peer as an illustrator / artist / journalist is the great Joe Sacco. The tone of their work is very different, though. Whereas Sacco’s reporting is dispassionate and ironic, Crabapple’s is emotional and argumentative. Sacco’s art – black and white illustrations – is famously detailed, and everybody, including the artist, has ugly faces. Crabapple works in colour as well as in black and white; all of her portraits and her scenes are exuberant; even pictures that convey mourning or disapproval are done with a Dionysian, fluorescing density. She hasn’t given up on life, anywhere.

This is from her wonderful piece called “We Must Risk Delight After a Summer Full of Monsters,” published by the irreplaceable

Journalism often feels like vampirism. Before Ferguson or Gaza, I’d been reporting from Abu Dhabi, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria. Before that, Guantanamo. Sources told me about repression and violence. A journalist on the disaster beat told me to be a funnel for this pain. “Let it go through you. Get it down truthfully. Move on.”

I could not.

Writing about others’ trauma bears no relation to living it. Yet I was a ruin more and more. The word “burnout” is dead from overuse. Constant exposure to pain burns in.

Quinn Norton once advised me to write about what I loved. Rage came more easily. I’d make my lines bloody, my words damning. I didn’t know how to write about happiness. What did it mean, the night I danced on the street in New Orleans? A brass band howled. I’d woven flowers into my hair, but they dissolved beneath the Halloween rain. My friends and I danced for hours. …

Power seeks to enclose beauty—to make it scarce, controlled. There is scant beauty in militarized zones or prisons. But beauty keeps breaking out anyway, like the roses on that Ferguson street.

The world is connected now. Where it breaks, we all break. But it is our world, to love as it burns around us. Jack Gilbert [in “A Brief for the Defense”] is right. “We must risk delight” in the summer of monsters. Beauty is survival, not distraction. Beauty is a way of fighting. Beauty is a reason to fight.


I was wearing the Kwantlen school colours out at a neighborhood Oympia restaurant last night. As an older couple was leaving the restaurant, the husband came over to me. “We have been trying to determine what KPU might stand for. We thought it might mean ‘kinetic power unit’.” My date thought this was very funny indeed.