Thursday, October 06, 2005

Sandman Hotel, Calgary

Reading tonight at Pages, on Kensington. Sat next to a man on the plane who restores log cabins. Red river clay from about five feet down. Mix it with lime and chopped straw or horsehair. Add water and that'll create a geyser maybe forty feet.
He says, That's chemistry, eh?
He raises a wirey eyebrow to see if I'm following. Then he moves his hand over his table tray, thinking. A white bar of sunlight from the window lights up the silver hair on his knuckles, makes his wedding band flare. He tells me about the witches his wife has bought for halloween, their grandkids are coming. All pretty witches with big smiles.
It snowed in Winnipeg this morning, the yellow trees five storeys below my hotel window almost neon against the grey building and grey sky and the snow white, white and everything lashed by the wind. Behind me a white bed and a thousand white pillows glowing in the gloom of a quiet hotel room. The little red light on the phone blinking by the bed.
The man beside me moves his hand over the table top, thinking. He's already told me he's played Santa Claus every year for the last twenty-five, with a horse and sleigh, but he figures it's time to retire the costume, let someone else take over.
Lugging those bags a toys, he says. Hard work.
The land below is cut into rectangles every shade of brown and gold and the mountains with snow and the clouds casting shadows.
He taps his fingers twice on the food tray. You add water to the lime until it cools and becomes the consistency of butter. Then you add bluing and salt and away you go - fill the chinks, whitewash the whole shebang.
You could go with latex, but it wouldn't be authentic, he says. I want the authentic thing.
I'm reading Zadie Smith because her voice is so thoroughly authentic, though of course, artful. Full of artifice as all writing is. Then how come I feel like I know her? This is a paradox.