Trevor Abes: Writer

Tag: essay

The Tobacco Defenestration

The Tobacco Defenestration

Photograph by Jenny Downing.

From Record One: Peep Show

I’m sitting in a vanilla bean office chair next to my bedroom window on the 28th
floor of my postmodern apartment complex, Sonatina, where there’s never any music
playing. The chair used to belong to my uncle: he died from asbestos in the university
where he served as professor, from drinking whiskey and from smoking cigarettes. He
liked Dunhills, the ones with a crimson stripe on the filter.

I’m smoking a cigarette with a blue stripe on the filter, a beer-and-a-smoke kind
of cigarette that imprints on my lungs a hot patch tingle. Not a Dunhill, a Canadian
Classic. The pack has snow on it.

Despite the warmth of an atomic orange hoodie and thick green-scale
lumberjack-chequered pyjama pants, I’m sick as a parrot on a 3-day saltine bender.
My nostrils are dripping. Wiggly phlegm is coalescing in my throat.

The wind tends to blow in on the 28th floor, and I’ve taken precautions. There’s
a pair of dark blue skinny jeans slotted under the door with a wet Martha Stewart striped
towel to prevent smoke-swirls from sliding into the living room where mom
and dad are on the internet. A plastic fan whizzes against the breeze – blades
speckled with soot and ash because I only look at them when they’re spinning – and I
try to exhale into it from behind, into the window.

I don’t know it’s my last cigarette. At a more basic and less demanding location
in my brain, where the fundamental processes that keep me alive are carried out by
idiots and country bumpkins, I’ve known for a while. I’ve felt the tipping point
approaching on piles of guilt and cancer googling.

Read the rest here by downloading the anthology: Record One: Peep Show.


What Does It Mean To Be Canadian?

Canada“Any name may be Canadian,” or so says John Parlabane, the defrocked monk in Robertson Davies’ The Rebel Angels (1981), a novel about the inner workings of the College of St. John and Holy Ghost, a fictional Canadian university. He explains himself a little later,

“I think we are foolish on this continent [N. America] to imagine that after five hundred generations somewhere else we become wholly Canadian –hard-headed, no-nonsense North Americans– in the twinkling of a single life.”

In other words, continental generalizations aside, becoming Canadian happens quickly and frequently.

Parlabane is speaking to and about a graduate student in medieval studies, Miss Maria Theotoky, who has told him that she’s Canadian by birth. Immediately unsatisfied, because any name may be Canadian, he pries further and discovers that mama and papa Theotoky are Hungarian. The question to hold on to is, what’s Canadian?

Time for you to test Parlabane’s idea. Take this online ad posted by Now Magazine.

Meat and Greet Social evening for older trans men and their allies. April 17, 6:30pm. 519 Church Community Centre. 416-355-6787.”

I’d like you to perform a bit of gut-analysis between your neck and your belly button, where the most pressing ethical quandaries are debated, and decide if you feel a need to know where the attendees are originally from to call the meat-ing Canadian.

If you do, you and the CRTC have as much in common, and there is likely a Can-con percentage that, once fulfilled, renders the event Canadian in your mind; then, labelling things “Canadian” that are above their respective Can-con percentages builds our society and cultural industries, and vice versa.

If you don’t need to know, you share Parlabane’s any-name idea, and we have to ask once again, you can stop holding the question now, what’s Canadian?, but this time with a little more information to go on: being Canadian has nothing to do with where you’re from.

KirbyImagine our country as Kirby, Nintendo’s pink puff ball adventurer, with his mouth open wide ready to inhale. Suppose Kirby feeds on cultures and gains nourishment by taking ownership in them, by calling them his own. He’s always indiscriminately hungry; note how the double meaning in “Any name may be Canadian” proves this: 1) Any name has the right to become Canadian. 2) Any name may already be Canadian. Such a varied group of people makes us some of everyone from everywhere, a perfect cross section of humanity. For example, after five or ten or thirty years of visits, you walk into a certain record store in downtown Toronto feeling as confident as you do when you get home after work. Your best friend enjoys the occasional joint at a cannabis lounge in Vancouver. A colleague of your father’s, who you’ve met before, performs FGM on someone’s daughter next week and believes with his whole soul that he’s doing her a favor, even though the procedure is illegal in Canada and should be; a decade later, when her water bursts, doctors at Mount Sinai will have to have received special training on how to treat her.

You can disagree that FGM is on the same level as, say, SARS or the Oil Sands, but you can’t say it’s not a Canadian problem.

Of course, we have homegrown examples too, like Standard Time and Canola, and proudly so, but they are only a tiny piece of the pie; universal health care, The Group of Seven, The English Patient  and hockey would have never happened (as we know them) without leaving our doors open to the world.

So, does labelling things as “Canadian” build our society? I reckon it does. It guarantees our future. After all, controlling the flow of culture in an effort to sculpt a national identity down to something pure has been known to cause a spot of bother.

Ten Reasons to Love Someone Quantum Mechanically: A Tetrad of Expansive Misreadings


10. According to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, the inability to simultaneously predict your and your lover’s locations and velocities means that, whether still or moving, spicing up the relationship is already implicit in the universe.

9. Spreading out like a wave comes in handy during lapses in judgement, because it allows you to consider or “try out” all the options at hand before compacting into a particle when it’s time to take responsibility for your actions.

8. Because you can only predict probabilities at the quantum mechanical realm of atomic and subatomic particles, you can never really win, no matter the argument.

7. There are minor temperature variations across the sky and as far back in spacetime as when it was cold enough for atoms to fire up their nuclei. These variations are leftovers from the formation of planets and galaxies billions of years ago. Analogously, that thing you did in the late 80’s that your partner still brings up to prove a point, even though it has nothing to do with said point, is not going away any time soon.

6. A quantum is the minimal amount of any physical entity that can be involved in any interaction. It’s a packet of energy, a cautionary tale, the birthday/anniversary home appliance of physics.

5. Hamilton’s action principle says that physical systems evolve to minimize the action. You don’t run home when you can walk. You tee off from a par 5 with a driver instead of a 9 iron. When your lover asks if s/he looks fat, you say nay.

4. One of the many claims of quantum mechanics is that we do not live in a deterministic universe, that causality, on the smallest known scales (electrons colliding), is not fixed but uncertain, whereas macroscopic examples of causality (billiard balls colliding) only seem deterministic because of how they appear to human eyes. This is why grand gestures like trips and diamonds and designer digs sometimes do not go as far as cooking dinner or sweeping house.

3. According to quantum entanglement, two particles that interact physically, adopt the same state, then become separated will exhibit correlated values for the same measurement (position, momentum, energy, etc), no matter how far apart they happen to be. If a particle is found to be spinning in the clockwise direction, its entangled partner, whether a foot or a million miles away, will be found to be spinning in the counter clockwise direction: thus the natural foundation of petty disagreements about the cleaning of dishes, the clearing of gutters, the bagging and subsequent disposal of trash, and the differences between men and women.

2. The grand intention behind quantum mechanics is to better describe the universe. Descriptions can be accepted or rejected at any point; they are never eternally true. They are only true until experimentation disproves them. It’s fair to say that science is down with you unsettling your preconceptions about life, love, death, down to the right kind of cheese for saltines, in the hopes that you’ll one day comprehend that stepping stones are made from very many mistakes.

1. The speed of light is absolute; it is not measured in relation to anything else like a moving car to the road, or a plane to the clouds. The speed of light just is how fast light goes. What about you does not depend on anything other than yourself?

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