I saw Lee Henderson again tonight.
I was on Carrall Street, taking the first part of the dinner break of my last nightshift. I missed most of the art, but there was still some lingering around, mixing in with the panhandlers, nightclubbers and other Gastown regulars. He was in a closed circle of conversation. I was eating streetza (which has mysteriously dropped back down to a dollar a slice, after rising to $1.25 last January and then peaking at $1.50 this summer). I thought about going over and introducing myself, but then I saw some coworkers and decided to make awkward smalltalk with them instead.
It's the second time Henderson crept into my life today. I woke up sometime before noon to Jian Ghomeshi promoting tomorrow's episode of Q, where Henderson will argue the relevancy of The Catcher In The Rye.
I first read Catcher in the ninth grade, during my one-year stint at Evan Hardy. Henderson was in Grade 12 that year, and was one of the editors of Crampl, the school's literary and art annual that published at least one of my poems and a pencil drawing of Sting(who I had seen in concert the summer before) I may have traced. Probably not though, as I was drawing a lot that year, mostly copying off Keith Giffen's Legion of Super-Heroes art. I borrowed the book from the school library, which makes it entirely possible that Henderson and I both read The Catcher In The Rye for the first time from the same volume. Which is interesting and isn't. I dunno, it's interesting to me.
Henderson's got a new book out called The Man Game. It looks good. It looks real good. My current moratorium on new books is really hard to uphold. I reviewed his book of short stories, The Broken Record Technique, for the P-Dog way back when. And also interviewed him via email, which is more like exchanging emails and less like interviewing.
On Sunday, I saw him read at the Word on the Street fair downtown. I laughed a little at a part no one else laughed at, more an appreciative laugh at a fine turn of words than a laugh-at-a-joke laugh. I think he looked at me, but I was way in the back.
About a month ago, co-worker Ryan--the man I've spent nearly every single night with for the last year--told me that I look just like Neal Henderson, "you know, the writer?"
What did he write?
"The Man Game."
This was before the book had even been reviewed by the Globe & Mail.
Oh, you mean Lee Henderson.
"Yeah, whatever. You look just like him. We were riding the bus the other day, and this girl was had his book, and she was talking on her cell. She was saying that the book was kind of boring, but she had to read it for a class or something. And Neal I mean Lee was right there. I asked him how that made him feel, and he...."
And then Ryan shrugged his shoulders.
When I got back from my walkabout tonight, I looked in the mirror. I tried to see what Ryan was talking about. Sure, both Henderson and I wear glasses. And we are both wearing checked button-up shirts tonight, just as we both were on Sunday. That's when I noticed a small patch of stubble I missed when I shaved this afternoon. I looked at the shadows under my eyes, the result of two years of working nights. Two years of being underslept and malnourished and missing out on spending time with my wife (who's only been my wife for two months, but, y'know). That all comes to an end tonight. This is my last night shift. I should be commemorating it somehow, but instead I'm thinking about how close Lee Henderson's shave looked tonight. I'm thinking that he doesn't drowsily scrub his face with an electric razor once every couple of days like some character in a Rebus novel. I'm thinking that he takes the time, uses a hot towel and everything. Maybe even eucalyptus. I bet he uses a straightblade, an antique, with something ruggedly arcane on the celluloid handle. Something like a lighthouse with a sea serpent wrapped around it, or well, probably something that looks like an early Marcel Dzama drawing. (Dzama illustrated The Broken Record Technique, so, like, go figure.)
video: "Shiver" by Giant Sand