It's like my mantra. Richard Price said it in, I think, a New York Times profile. Yeah, there it is. My mantra should be "Writers write" but here we are.
Life being what it is, I don't get much hang out time lately. I actually write more than I hang out. Which is sad, because I don't write as much as I should. So when events conspire, as they did the other day, I try to make the most of the opportunity and really hang out.
I had spent the morning with Daniel Zomparelli's poetry collection Davie Street Translations. In the afternoon I had to be around St. Paul's Hospital. It was a standard transport job, which means wait, wait, wait. I passed most of the time in the waiting room with James Crumley's classic The Last Good Kiss. I don't read poetry on the job, I can't afford the risk of existential crisis. Poetry is great for the in between time, waiting for the phone to ring, procrastinating paper work, that kind of thing. But once I'm on a job, I like something with forward-moving action, if only as a way to mark time.
I've been a Crumley fan since The Final Country came out in paperback. It called to me from the bottom shelf Mystery section at Buzzword. I've always had a thing for Texas, and the cover was impossible for me to pass up.
The point, though, is that if you haven't The Last Good Kiss, you should read The Chill first. And if you have read The Last Good Kiss, you should read The Chill next. Or whenever. You do what you do. I've never been good at reading books that someone told me to. I've had Jamie's edition of A Confederacy of Dunces on my shelf for nearly three years. It's one of several Crumleyesque qualities I have.
Spent most of the five hours inside that The Last Good Kiss. But when I saw my chance, I ducked out to grab a bit to eat. I hadn't been to St. Paul's since last October, when the twins were born. Nearly a year to the day since the farce of finding parking and getting a labouring woman through the afterhours admittance. Locked doors aplenty.
I thought about winding my way up to the maternity ward, revisiting those halls I haunted for four sleepless days as my son sorted out his blood sugar levels. I know where they keep the popsicles up there. The maternity ward at St. Paul's stocks a white grape popsicle that will blow your mind. Worth having twins for.
But I had no business up on the second floor. The people up their don't need an audience for the dramas that are playing out. Plus, I didn't trust myself to not get lost in the corridors.
So I hit the street. Burrard first, thinking there must be something quick and decent to eat nearby. All I saw was 7-11. So I crossed the street and went through the automatic sliding doors. I don't remember the last time I was in a 7-11. Probably the last time I had to escort someone to St. Paul's. When I was paying my dues on graveyards, I ate there regularly. I used to get apple fritters from the Sev at Main & 14th. I ate taquitos from the Sev in the International Village. Once I even had a hot dog from the Sev at Dunsmuir, loaded it with onions and ate while I walked through Gastown when Gastown was still scary.
But that was a lifetime ago. Three, really.
I stared through the plexiglass at at some formerly-frozen, possibly-deepfried, rotating meat cylinder and I didn't have it in me to put it in me. I guess it's easier to eat crap like that at 3 in the morning.
I grabbed a green Gatorade from the cooler, paid for it, and split.
I drank the whole thing as I walked south to Davie.
I noted with some pleasure that there was still office space for rent upstairs from Celebrities. I remembered seeing the sign a year ago on one of our trips to St. Paul's for monitoring near the end of the pregnancy. I thought then, and I still do, that it would make an ideal spot for an independent detective, fictional or otherwise, to share an office. Maybe with an upholsterer, a plumber and a sewer engineer.
I haven't spent much time on Davie. I used to meet Mike for coffee or sushi on Davie sometimes, when I used to get out. Most of my time on Davie has been spent in transit to Denman or English Bay. So, I've got nothing invested in it. But Zomparelli's poems are lingering.
There's Odyssey, there's the Fountainhead. There's Denny's. I didn't even know there was a Denny's on Davie. And Hamburger Mary's, yeah, Hamburger Mary's. I went there with my brother after seeing Jim Gaffigan.
I'm a tourist here, gawking at these places I've read about in Zomparelli's poems, so plain in the early fall, early afternoon sun. I'm a tourist in Davie Village, same as I would be in Paco Ignacio Taibo's Mexico City or Martin Beck's Stockholm. Detective fiction is a form of tourism, I think, and Zomparelli's poems scratch me in the same places as Richard Price's Lower East Side walkaround Lush Life did.
I took a writing class from Zomparelli. Or rather, I sat in on a class he led. I had stopped writing in 2006 after about a decade of trying to have a writing career. In the spring of 2009, not long after my first daughter was born, I realized I had to write again. I didn't know what I was going to write about. I didn't have to go back to music writing, I was free. I started going to writing classes. All of my writing teachers in Vancouver have been from the queer community. That sounds so patronizing. But it means something. I don't know what. I was beat up and called "fag" so much as an adolescent that I've always felt--I dunno, fondness? kinship?--solidarity with queer people. Still sounds patronizing.
I'd fluked upon Zomparelli's class at an interesting time in my writing, where I had no agenda and was more open to learning new things than at any other point in this mess of writing life. I learned a lot, and my writing went in directions I wouldn't have necessarily taken it on my own. And most importantly, Zomparelli--Daniel, was very encouraging at a time when I was still a little bit on the fence about allowing writing to resume it's position in the captain's chair on the control deck of the Starship Emmet. Whatever that's worth.