why does Don MacKay…

sit on the shelf above my laptop while I work, and point a paper finger at me from his Strike/Slip book and whisper, “why, why, why?” then as I type more, grizzle, “yuck”?

and why does Anne Simpson lie on the glass table beside my desk, her Loop looping, “less, less, less”, all the while her Anne smile wide.

and Tim Bowling, he’s off fishing somewhere, I think it’s in the late-’70’s, early ’80’s, and couldn’t really give a…

and still I write…


the crows are in the rowan tree outside my door

This is one of my favourite days of the year – the day the crows decide to pick the rowan tree clean of its fat red berries. How they decide that this is the day when they will fly in enmasse, settle on the mountain ash (the rowan), squabble, pick and gobble, beat their patch with their oily black feathers, remains a mystery to me.

Why this day and not the next? How is it that I can look out at my rowan one morning, heavy and lovely with red and green, then suddenly it’s a macabre Christmas tree, with living black bird ornaments thrashing and squawking and stripping it bare?

There’s something going on in birdworld, a feather telegraph perhaps, about which I’d love to know.


after so many friends asked me to be their friend, I signed up and that was fun for a few weeks – a shortcut to finding out who was doing what – then the other day I talked to JB in Vancouver and he said, “do you realize that they own all the information you enter onto your site forever?”

suddenly it didn’t seem so attractive

so I’m off

now what about wordpress? hmmmm


here for a few days, I took the ferry then a bus, jumped off at the Terminal in downtown Vancouver and decided to walk the four or five kilometers to catch the Sea Bus to the north shore.  I wanted to walk through Chinatown, wanted to see Hastings and Main and walk it.

 I grew up in North Vancouver, have come downtown all my life.  When we were teenagers, we used to see art films in an old theatre at Hastings and Main…. I can’t remember the name of the theatre but I know it was an old vaudeville house and later, a burlesque theatre.  When we went, at 16, 17, it was a wonderful old place with huge maroon velvet curtains, slightly moth eaten, and it had the most comfortable maroon velvet theatre seats that snapped like crocodiles when you stood up.  Maybe it’s nostalgia, but I think  I remember a few tarnished cherubs above the doors and on the ceiling.

We always sat at the back of the balcony;  up there, people smoked whatever, ate really good things – nanaimo bars, real popcorn, good coffee, laughed and kissed and had the most fun.  From our perches, we saw the best of the international and western film canon, and a lot of kitsch too.  The theatre was where a lot of our ideas, philosophies were forged. and always after the show, we’d spill out, head somewhere to eat and we’d talk talk talk and argue over what did Bergman really meant with his imagery, or comment on how beautiful Bacall was in Casablanca, or ask each other just how bizarre that Indian film really was. 

 And we’d head out to Chinatown around the corner, or Gastown to go to the Joint – a jazz haven where they sold “special dark” coffee (the dark was for dark rum) – and we’d talk and talk and talk some more.  But to get anywhere, we had to navigate the rough street outside – Hastings and Main – a place we had always been warned about by our parents, a place inhabited by drunks and junkies, prostitutes (as they called sex-trade workers in those days), and roving sailors off the ships and loggers just out of the camps, all hot to spend their pay.

But we never had problems.  Our biggest worry was that a drunk might fall on us.  Everybody just left everybody alone at Hastings and Main- the junkies, the drunks, the “tourists” such as us kids from the suburbs who came for movies or to eat at the best fish place in Canada – The Only (which is still there).  I was never frightened down there – saddened but never frightened  – even one night when my car broke down there at 2 a.m. and I was alone, I didn’t worry.   A local coming out of one of the bars came to help me. 

I walked those streets many, many times day and night without fear.  

So today, decades later, I decided I wanted to see it again – wanted to see “Canada’s worst neighbourhood” as it’s described so often in newspaper articles and television programs.  And what did I think?

Shame, I felt nothing but shame at how we are collectively failing the people who live there.  I walked the blocks at Hastings and Main, through to Gastown, past Pigeon Park, where I did some  broadcasting for Co-op radio (nothing glamourous, just announcements for some political show), and one thought kept repeating itself over and over again, Heronymus Bosch and his hell… or worse… the condition of those people, the filth, the sharp knife of atmosphere, was unbelievable…the junkies stick thin, running like rats in the alley when the beat cop peered around the corner,  the bedlam  fights of way too many madmen within too small a radius, the sleeping girls on doorsteps, the garbage everywhere, the stench of crystal meth piss, the undercurrents of violence..Dickensian, slum, squalor, bear pit… no words can describe it.  The only light being the Carnaby centre, which has outdoor tables and chairs, places for people to drink coffee, retain some dignity, recreate some humanity.

 I walked through it.  No one bothered me,bought a guy coffee.  Apologized.  For failing him. Wanted to walk the people of Vancouver, of British Columbia, through those few, damned blocks, just as the Allies walked the townspeople who lived beside the concentration camps six decades ago.  Let them see what they are turning their heads away from.  Smell the air.

so how do I make words fly like feet?

… second week of flamenco after a 4 month break and muscle memory is kicking in slowly, slowly and I’m told that I’m getting good sound from them… on Friday night in coaching class, doing a basic escobilla (a bit of footwork), H., the master guitarist looked at me and said, “the floor vibrates with you”, and I said, “I just walked across Spain, I hope my feet picked up something good”… strength at the very least, duende at best

and slowly, slowly words are coming to me, they are circling like the swallows of the meseta, (the Spanish plains I hiked through) and I think if I don’t try to grab them, that maybe, just maybe they will settle long enough for me to write a few down… a poem?

finally, back to flamenco, I tried on new shoes today, looked at all the colours and style samples… then we will order them from Spain…. can’t decide on fuschia or a gorgeous green, officially pistachio, but more the colour of Spanish olives… everyone says the fuschia reflects my personality better than the green, but I just love the green and anyway, until my feet are tidy, fast, get good sound, do I really want everyone staring at them in bright, fuschia???

I am not a one note Samba…but I wouldn’t mind being an Allegrias!

last Apple blurb (hence the one-note samba reference)… my new machine is great and I found some great Apple techs. in town here so all is not lost… still, I caution others.

Last night I gave my first presentation on the camino de santiago. I think it went well and have been booked for more in the coming year. It’s a strange thing how the experience gloms (is that how one spells it?) to a person and doesn’t let them go.

One of my correspondents who has hiked the camino 3 or 4 times (and I met some who had done it 8 times), suggested to me that I have at least one more pilgrimage in me before it lets me go. He also says perhaps I will write it out and while the world truly does not need another camino book (and in fact Shirley MacLean’s was one too many), I find the Spanish landscape, the black swallows, the beak-clacking storks, seeping into all that I am writing these days.

While for many the camino is an experience of the heart or mind, or even soul, for me it was one of the senses.

On a totally different note, I am back to my flamenco and am really looking forward to getting back in dancer shape. They say the first to go is one’s turns and I’d have to agree. In bata class last Tuesday, not only did I get incredibly dizzy but I managed to entangle myself in 6 feet of skirt. The good thing is I didn’t fall!

If anyone is interested in seeing what dancing in a bata de cola could look like, check out the clip on YouTube called Flamenco: Allegrias. It features a master of the dance and her dance troupe and while the dancers are gorgeous and dance beautifully, watch the master dancer who does so much with gesture, nuance and you will see the essence of flamenco – life experience. The Allegrias is one of the joyful danceforms.

b.t.w… I look nothing like those dancers….. yet!


okay, maybe I’ll stop my Apple Rant after this but….

I’m sure this is amazingly boring and ultimately, a First World Problem, but I just have to get it out… I still officially hate Apple and their customer service wing, AppleCareLess, but I am extremely grateful to the company, London Drugs, who sold me the MacBook in the first place for seeing the whole thing right by replacing the defective machine (did I say it has a slight electrical hum as well as a flickering screen?).

LD took responsibility and is ponying up a new machine.   I don’t know what they are going to do with the old one because Apple said they won’t do anything for LD so I guess  LD is going to eat the cost.

The supreme joke is that AppleCareLess actually phoned ME this afternoon to see what was up with my machine and when I told it it was being replaced, Kathleen said, “I’m so glad you’re happy with this” as if Apple had ANYTHING TO DO WITH IT.  Needless to say I told her that Apple and AppleCareLess was a waste of time and horrendous to deal with and that the only real customer service was LD.  I also told Kathleen that I particularly resented being treated as a rip-off artist because I WANTED MY MACHINE TO WORK!!!!

Now the real APPLE KICKER though is the fact that the extended warranty, APPLE CARE, for which I ponied up 300 bucks on top of the $1700  I already paid for a crap machine, would only be good for one year on the TOTALLY brand, new machine, as it would be back dated to the purchase date of my original machine… even though I only bought the warranty two weeks ago and just registered it yesterday before I knew I was going to get a brand, new, replacement (thank you LD) and so on and so forth….

and by this time all I can do is laugh because it’s so hilarious that this company that prides itself on service, quality products blah blah blah, is so abysmal at the very basics and what can I do about any of this…

I can’t even write THE PRESIDENT STEVE JOBS because no one, and I mean, NO ONE, will give me the president’s address… yes, that’s right, no one at AppleCareLess would tell me how to contact the man who is the head of this company…

well, let me tell you, by the end of the conversation with Kathleen she said she’d open another case file for me and see if she could get me full Apple Care on the new MacBook I am going to pick up tomorrow…

keep your eyes on the rant

but lastly I have to thank Blake from London Drugs for being patient, kind and ultimately, a first class Apple dealer and for ultimately taking responsibilty…

he deserves a giant raise and I will send lots of people to him

more apple rant

so I phone Apple”CARE” TM and have to sit through an interminable number of voicemail choices only to be told that the next available operator will be “approximately FIFTEEN MINUTES” so I should just sit back and listen to God Awful music and insulting apple propaganda while I wait for someone to “help” me with my Apple”CARE registration which I purchased because I was AFRAID that this piece of junk Apple sold me might develop even more problems and I’d have to shell out even more money ($2000 and counting to date) in order that I might have a machine that I can RELY upon…

phew, that feels better now I’ve got today’s rant off my chest

now I have to redial Apple”CARE” TM because my screen is flickering on and off… gotta go

why I now hate Apple RANT (warning, impolite language)

after several hours then days lost, trying to get someone to explain why a $2000 product can’t be considered reliable

after being treated with hostility and condescension

and after being told that I have to wait for a part to come in and that it may take yet another two return trips to the “authorized repair centre” (and where is that in the ads urging people to switch to Apple, the admission that Apples under one year old have to be repaired and oh, it might take a couple of days and too bad about that deadline you are working on etc. etc. etc…. and maybe you should have another computer on hand just in case your MacBook DOESN”T WORK PROPERLY)

and after being treated as though I am trying to rip Apple off because, horror of horrors I am asking for a machine that is reliable (and everyone repeats over and over and over again that it’s impossible to replace the piece of crap they sold me – even though I haven’t asked for a new machine and that I just want to be guaranteed to have an expensive piece of equipment that works…)

and after being told it’s not normal to have to bring a MacBook in for repair as often as I have

and after being scared into purchasing AppleCare, the Mac “Protection Plan” for a mere what was it, $300 +, then being frightened again by the people who sold me the thing in the first place while on the telephone to them tonight… “if you don’t register your AppleCare before the anniversary of purchase, Apple won’t stand behind it” EVEN THOUGH I PURCHASED APPLECARE A WEEK OR SO AGO AND DIDN”T REALIZE THAT GIVING APPLE MORE OF MY MONEY WAS ENOUGH, BUT NOW I HAVE TO JUMP THROUGH MORE APPLE HOOPS TO ENSURE MY COMPUTER WILL BE REPAIRED

SO I finally cave and go to register my AppleCare online and I can’t because for some reason my Apple ID and password aren’t working and




and so it’s now official… I really and truly hate Apple and want to recommend you avoid Apple and Apple products

why I’ll never buy a Mac again

okay, this site is supposed to be about/for writing, so I guess it’s okay to have a rant here as it directly relates to my working life as a writer.

yesterday, I spent several hours on the telephone trying to speak to anyone from Apple who would be willing to take responsibility for the fact that my MacBook still isn’t working 100%… I purchased it last year and have used for nine months and it has been in for “repair” several times, each time taking several hours or even days to be returned to me

needless to say, no one would stand behind their $2000 product (oh yes, did I tell you I forked out an extra couple of hundred bucks for Apple Care, an extended warranty, because one of the repair guys at the official Apple Repair Centre said to me, “I’d be a bit nervous about not having Apple Care if I were you”…. now there’s comfort wouldn’t you say???)

I think I hit the nadir of “customer service” when Jeff, the Tech Support guy from Apple in Markham Ont., asked me if I had another computer kicking around the house that I could use while my MacBook was in getting repaired – foolishly I had told him that I depend upon my MacBook

(somehow that didn’t register with him that if I had another computer, I wouldn’t be quite so upset about the deadline I have)

then perhaps another low point was speaking with Kathleen the customer relations from Apple USA (where all customer relations calls are routed), whose well polished, “I can totally appreciate your point of view” and “we’re sorry you feel that way” remarks felt quite condescending…. and who by the way, wouldn’t paper our conversation but would only give me a “case number” for my computer problem…

and so it went for several hours, no one willing to take the situation in hand but rather just pass pass passing the buck about a piece of equipment that costs a lot of pass pass pass bucks and which is still flickering less than 24 hours after being “repaired”

and I feel really frustrated and want to write a feature article about how Apple is trying to woo people from their PCs with soft and cuddly ads, promises of customer service etc. etc.

and the reality is…

well you fill in the blanks

any suggestions anyone as to whom I have to speak in order to get a machine that is worth the $2000 (and counting) that I’ve shelled out already????