SIGHTS

Just What I’ve Always Wanted

I celebrated a birthday a month ago today. For most of it, I was only dimly aware that it was my birthday. Felt much like any other day. Guess I’ve just gotten to that age. Either that or I was just high. It was one or the other. Probably both.

To commemorate this apparent eureka moment on the ultimate subjectivity of time (but more so to take advantage of some of those non-essential services now in case another lockdown happens later), I treated myself to a slightly expensive ornament to beautify my physical being. One I’m sure I’ll never accidentally misplace. Because it’s a tattoo.


This is the initial stencil impression they do before they break out the needles.
I did the Instagrammy bathroom selfie thing during the mid-session whiz break.
The time-honoured six-syllable mantra of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (Chenrezig), in the Tibetan script. In case you were wondering.

The tattoo artist did a masterful job, as you can see. I almost felt bad for not tipping her an extra hundred on the way out. Midway through the session, she asked me if I was feeling any pain. I told her I’ve been through worse.

It was also through this (highly worthwhile) experience that I learned of specially formulated ointments available on the market for recently tattooed areas of the skin. A lot of them come in visually stunning bottles. Like this…

Keeps your tats iron. Like a lion. In Zion.

The Green Grass of SILVER BROWN

An Email From My Old Lama (sort of)


Several lifetimes ago, when I was but a wee strapping young lad of twenty-three on the mean streets of the ‘Peg, I digested the writings of the gentleman pictured above. A New Yorker with a Jewish upbringing who spent most of the Seventies living in India studying Dzogchen under various lamas. Even after all that time on the Subcontinent, Lama Surya Das has never lost his thick Brooklyn accent.

I got this in my inbox recently, and my mind was blown clean off. It was probably just all the THC running through my veins at that moment, but the guy in the picture struck me as a dead ringer for Lama Surya Das. Maybe it’s a sign, like those reported visions of the Virgin Mary that keep appearing in grilled-cheese sandwiches. More likely though, it’s simply something to smile about.


The Journey of SILVER BROWN

The Curious Case of Elmýr Garfield

My first apartment in Toronto was literally right next door to a Buddhist temple. Every Sunday morning, I could hear the sound of the gongs coming right through my walls. Never saw the inside of that temple, though. Mostly on account of the fact that it was a Theravada sanctuary catering to the diaspora, and I don’t speak a lick of Vietnamese outside of exactly one word. But I nevertheless appreciated the vibrations of those gongs every Sunday. After spending Monday through Friday (and frequently Saturday to boot) catering to the hyper-frazzled demands of The Machine, that weekly dose of sonic medicine was a most welcome reprieve.

The day those healing vibrations stopped came when my building was sold to a new owner, and I ended up getting renovicted. The next apartment after that was something I subletted from the company I was working for at the time. I only called that place home for a mere eight months, for it was inhabited by vast insurmountable colonies of bedbugs (and fleas!) and a handful of very cranky people. One woman who lived there told me the building was haunted. She was probably right.


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I recall a foursome of geriatric men who would spend the daylight hours sitting on lounge chairs in front of the Apartment Building of the Damned, wiling away their golden years complaining loudly about things their juniors would seldom think to complain about, occasionally yelling obscenities at random passersby just for the sheer hell of it. Like a cruder version of King of the Hill. I’m not a hundred percent sure if their demeanour was merely because of the bedbug problem or something that could be chalked up to senility (it was probably a combination of the two), but this meditation on cranky old geezerhood manifested itself into what would eventually become SILVER BROWN. Its chosen guise was that of an Eccentric Mentor with a mastery of cybersorcery and certain forbidden knowledge sought out by the main characters in their quest for the Secret Ingredient.

The warlock Elmýr Garfield was a cursed character from the very beginning, but after several rewrites his curses have only multiplied. In the second or third draft I introduced the idea that the story starts off with him being dead, necessitating a cybermagickal trip to the netherworlds of the Environment to retrieve his innate isness and bring it back to the Sea of Joy to reboot it. Yet he is not so much reanimated as he is reborn. The audience is first introduced to him as a seventy-five-year-old man in the body of a seventy-five-second-old infant. An allusion to old stories of Gautama Buddha that told of him walking and talking on the day he was born. Or to Baby Herman from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Either one works. Take your pick.



As a result of the cursed nature of his existence (or more likely, because Florys errs slightly when she casts the spell to bring him back to life), Elmýr ages very rapidly after his rebirth, advancing through all the different life stages over the course of several chapters before finally exiting the story as a withered lifeless husk. At an inopportune moment in the narrative that greatly inconveniences the protagonists. If his final wilting occurred at a more convenient time, it wouldn’t be much of a story.

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