table of contents (PART II) EDITOR’S NOTE: These titles are deliberately pretentious. Just for show.
THE EASTERN BIRTH OF SILVER BROWN
When I was in high school, I had long hair, played a mean guitar and entertained those lofty dreams of becoming a rock god. Much to the chagrin of my parents, who were always unapologetically (not to mention shockingly) square, even by their generation’s standards; there was practically enough starch in those stuffed shirts of theirs to make ten thousand oceans’ worth of gravy. They loved easy-listening showtunes and Barbra Streisand and the plethora of singing shows that have reared their ugly heads on television these last two decades, and loathed any genre of music that employs Marshall stacks and/or distortion pedals in any capacity. So it goes without saying that my love affair with all that high-decibel balls-to-the-wall in-your-face rock n’ roll was deeply upsetting to them. Their whole attitude was: Fuck your dreams. Get a haircut and get a real job. Those weren’t their exact words of course, being too vanilla to make use of such colourful language. But that’s the gist of what they said. Being the teenage rebel I was at the time, of course I wasn’t going to listen to them. I was going to rock and roll all night and part of every day, so ‘scuse me while I kiss this guy…
Alas for me, I just happened to graduate from high school in 1992. It was a year that, among other things, saw the once-mighty Hair Metal Empire That We’re All Pretty Damn Sure Will Stand for Ten Thousand Years unceremoniously collapse with the rise of the Seattle grunge scene and its vast myriad of offshoots and subgenres. Up until that point, I had invested many hours of guitar practice towards the goal of becoming the next Steve Vai. Then along came that otherwise uneventful morning when I would wake up and find myself in a brave new world – a world where guys who could barely manage three chords were being worshipped as the new rock gods.
Granted, the hair metal thing was starting to get extremely stale and formulaic towards the end of the Eighties (particularly after it became mandatory to have at least three power ballads on every album), and in retrospect it’s probably a good thing that somebody finally put Old Yeller out of his misery. My heart has long since made peace with it all. A lot of the music that’s coming out today (as in the stuff that doesn’t suck that takes a bit of foraging to get to) sounds a lot like sonic regurgitations from the same songbird who fed me before I fledged the nest, so it’s all good. But when I was eighteen, I was horrified to watch my beloved old mutt get his brains blown to bits. My favourite musicians growing up were ones who would awe me with their technical proficiency, like that guy who kicked just as much ass playing left-handed as he did right-handed. They gave me something to aspire to as a guitar player. Bands like Mudhoney or the Screaming Trees didn’t do that for me. The awe quotient was completely absent with bands like that. Any jackass could learn to play one of their tunes without much effort.
Mind you, I never did become the next Steve Vai. All those years of exploring the untamed jungles of the fretboard had made me a Steve of some type or another, just not a Vai. More like a Vaughan – one that was nowhere close to attaining any smidgen of Stevie Ray’s godlike powers, but a Vaughan nonetheless. If SRV was the Zeus of the Texas blues (which by the way is an indisputable truth, to those of us who actually know anything about music), I was neither the Poseidon, nor the Hercules, nor even the friggin’ Hades of the Texas blues. I was more like that river fairy who Hephaestus got some tail with on the side while his wife wasn’t looking and became pregnant with a fire-breathing goat with two heads and lepidopteran wings of light whose milk enabled people to see the future, or some batshit bullshit like that. Of the Texas blues. Or more accurately, the mock Texas blues, what with me not actually being from Texas and all. But hey, it was a start. In the world I used to know, it counted for something. But then that world molted. The new musical animal that emerged from the discarded chrysalis demanded I be an even lower form of life than a river fairy. Like a wriggler. Or the (hypothetical) spermatozoon of an amoeba. Having to be a life form that low was way too much pressure for me to handle.
To add insult to injury, the same kind of adult-contemporary snooze fodder my mother listened to would gain a sizable following among people in my own age group in the years that would follow, with no explanation given as to why. The Lilith Fair actually became a thing for a few years. At the time, that was considered a legitimate rock festival – one that omitted everything that was identifiably rock n’ roll to me. There was no moshing, no stage diving, no (backstage?) orgies, no wanton consumption of mood-altering substances, no Guinness World Records for the loudest band on earth being broken. Just a bunch of solo acoustic performances with erudite and heartfelt lyrics worthy of the freaking Pulitzer Prize, performed for overly polite and well-behaved audiences who were not tripping balls. It was one of the hottest concert tickets there was for three consecutive summers. People were paying top dollar to see that shit. People my age. And they called that rock n’ roll. I felt like I had stepped into some kind of horrible alternate universe, one that made the Upside Down from Stranger Things look like a Sunday afternoon autumn stroll in the park with your special someone on your arm.
[EDIT 7/1/2020 15:06 UTC-5 …and before anyone gets the wrong idea, I am not at all poo-pooing women’s contributions to music. There are plenty of female musicians I admire. Tarja Turunen. The Great Kat. The Donnas. Just to name a few. Names you’d never see on the Lilith roster, because it was the suckiest suckfest that ever sucked. Diamanda Galás has the spectacular ability to summon demons onstage using only her voice, but the Lilith Fair organizers never would’ve booked her in a zillion years (despite the fact that she is clearly a golden goddess), for they were antirock blandophiles who wouldn’t know good music if it bit ’em on the arse. ]
That horror would ultimately dishearten me enough to cause my succumbing to all those years of zealous parental guilt-tripping. Fortunately for me, shortly after Kurt Cobain offed himself (I’m aware there’s a slew of theories questioning whether he actually did, but I won’t get into that), we would begin to hear repeated talk in the media of some newfangled phenomenon that at the time was referred to as an “information superhighway”. As I would learn later, it was not a newfangled phenomenon at all, but a highway that was first built in the 1960s for use by American military personnel as a channel of communication, and stands today as one of the lasting legacies of the Cold War – the 1983 film WarGames actually depicted an early variant of it, which at the time everybody wrote off as mere science fiction. Nevertheless, it was along that highway that I found my salvation and my life’s calling – or at least that’s what I thought at the time. And that was good enough for me. I would learn how to build those official websites that seemingly overnight had become a must for every respectable commercial establishment worth its salt. Thelonious Monk once said something about all musicians being subconsciously mathematicians; I can definitely attest to the truth of that.
table of contents (PART II)
THE SOUTHERN BIRTH OF SILVER BROWN
This “real job” my parents twisted my arm so forcefully to coerce me into getting would eventually be a position as webmaster, occasional system administrator and all-around corporate underling for the late Ellis Galea Kirkland, the semi-(in)famous Toronto architect – a position I would hold for twelve years. This is the image of Ellis Kirkland that was plastered all over the media in the wake of her arrest (relax, I’m getting to that). If I recall correctly, she had this picture done as a professional headshot for publicity purposes, although I bet nobody was expecting the kind of publicity this picture would be ultimately used for. Not even Ellis herself.
In the early morning of March 10, 2016, Ellis Kirkland would make headlines nationwide in Canada for stabbing a gentleman who worked as a concierge in her apartment building, located in the well-heeled Toronto neighbourhood of Rosedale. The victim of the stabbing would fortunately survive and make a full recovery from his injuries, and would go on to tell the media that the attack was completely unexpected and unprovoked. One minute he was helping her move some boxes into her apartment, and the next minute, for seemingly no reason at all, she was coming after him with a knife. After the dirty deed was done, she would flee the scene of the crime immediately and book a room in a nearby high-rise hotel, threatening to end her own life by jumping from a balcony on the twenty-seventh floor. A dramatic standoff with the police ensued that clocked in at nearly four hours, which eventually concluded with her seizure and arrest for attempted murder and assault with a weapon, among other charges. About a year later, the judge would declare her not criminally responsible by reason of acute mental illness.
I remember when the arrest first happened. For the next week or so, I would find myself almost snickering as I read the opinion pieces of the punditry, the ones that pondered the question of why this woman – a successful executive and infrastructure specialist who could boast a résumé more impressive than most, who lived in a ritzy old-money neighbourhood complete with celebrities and honest-to-God mansions, and who seemingly “had it all” – would commit such a heinous and utterly senseless crime. Speaking as one who worked for Ellis Kirkland in the years leading up to the stabbing incident and who knew the woman personally, I think I have a few insights into this matter that most people don’t. What the majority of the public doesn’t understand is that Ellis did not just wake up one morning, go insane, and stab a dude out of the blue, after a lifetime of otherwise impeccable service to the community, the nation and the world. The stabbing incident that brought her to the attention of the press was merely the culmination of a long, slow descent into madness that took place over the span of many years. A descent that I had the misfortune of witnessing personally.
Before I go on, I think a little background information is in order here. Mary Ellis Galea, or the Maltese Maverick if you want to call her by her superhero name, was born on the last day of September in 1955 on some island in the Mediterranean, immigrating to Canada with her family at a young age. Her mother’s name was also Mary, likely owing to the fact that Malta is probably second only to the Vatican City as the most Catholic sovereign state on earth. So the younger Mary became known as Ellis, in spite of that name being unusual for a woman. She would continue to use the name Ellis Kirkland even long after divorcing her first husband, because she felt bearing such a moniker would be advantageous for search engine optimization, specifically with respect to increasing the likelihood that people googling the famed international legal firm Kirkland & Ellis would unearth information on her by accident.
I first met her way back in 2003, through a mutual business contact. At the time, she was looking for someone to build a website for the company she was starting up, as the previous webmaster she was working with quit on her (I never met the guy, but I believe he was schizophrenic). We arranged for a meeting at her apartment, where I showed her samples of my work. She was impressed enough with me to hire me on the spot. I was twenty-nine years old at the time and a fairly recent college graduate. My post-Sheridan career in the field of multimedia and web development had gotten off to a bit of a rocky start, what with the whole turn-of-the-century dot-com meltdown and all. In the first two years after graduation, I would find myself working on various multimedia projects for a maddening string of (mostly) starry-eyed dreamers who had no clue what they were doing. When I first met Ellis, I found her to be a welcome breath of fresh air compared to all those other guys. The fact that she was a Harvard graduate and a certified genius wasn’t even the half of it. She had made history as the first woman to serve as president of the Ontario Association of Architects. She was a vice-president of what at the time was called the Atlantic Council of Canada (which I believe has since rebranded itself as the NATO Association of Canada), and in that capacity regularly hobnobbed with high-ranking military officers who had connections with NATO. Her distinguished career as an architect and urban planner had taken her around the world. She had business connections in China, India and the Middle East, among other places. She was highly knowledgeable about the customs and cultural traditions of a wide swath of societies around the globe, and her skills as a diplomat and negotiator were second to none. She had met royalty. She had rubbed shoulders with celebrities. She was chummy with quite a few Members of Parliament. I think she had even been to the Playboy Mansion, or at least knew people who had been there. If that’s not impressive enough, she was also a cancer survivor. She had been declared terminally ill a total of three times and was still around to tell the tale. I had never met anyone like her in my life. She was like some kind of superhuman or something, like a female James Bond. So of course, the opportunity to work with her was something I would dare not pass up. For the next twelve years, I would do just that.
Just so you all know I’m not pulling your leg, there exists an article that was printed in the Spring 2005 edition of the Toronto Waterfront magazine entitled “The Peace Alchemist”, detailing one of the many irons Ellis had in the fire during the time I worked for her. A copy of that article has been provided here for your convenience. If you read it closely, you’ll notice this article contains a reference to somebody named Hart. This is actually me. People below the executive level apparently weren’t entitled to have their full names mentioned in the press for whatever reason, but there I am. There’s also this selfie I took at work one afternoon while Ellis wasn’t looking, in the summer of 2014…
This selfie was taken at Ellis’ old apartment in Rosedale – the same apartment where the stabbing incident occurred. If any members of the fourth estate are reading this who really need to see honest-to-God evidence, Toronto’s finest are probably better equipped to show that to you than I. If the selfie isn’t convincing enough, my fingerprints can probably still be found on several DVDs from my personal collection I lent Ellis that she never got around to giving back to me. Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill in particular was one of her faves.
I can’t say I have any real regrets about my experience working for Ellis Kirkland. I got to do quite a few interesting things during my time in her employ. Things that the average person doesn’t get to do. There was the one time when I had to program a custom-built online video player from the ground up in the days before HTML 5 became a thing, when Ellis insisted that conventional video players wouldn’t cut the mustard, on the grounds that our clients live in a very remote corner of the world and many of them do not have enough familiarity with name-brand electronics to know which button to push to get the video to play. There was another time when the company’s family of websites got hacked by some Salafi jihadist organization overseas, and I was called upon to restore the sites to their former glory (which myself and another guy accomplished successfully – he mostly took care of the security issues, the actual unhacking was my department). I was actively involved in the publication of the company’s corporate literature and digital media, some of which got sent to dignitaries of international renown. I broke bread with politicians. I travelled to Ottawa to rub shoulders with generals. Probably most importantly, I learned many things about the world and how it functions that I never in a million years would learn from my parents, or even my teachers. It is somewhat regrettable that office politics is not a subject taught in school, but I was lucky enough to have one of the finest office politics professors a man could ask for.
Ellis once told me that at the time she was first diagnosed with cancer (which I believe was around 1997), she was on the verge of becoming a billionaire. The cancer was a major roadblock in that career momentum. It confined her to a hospital bed for several years, putting a dent on her career prospects and her fortune – a dent any casual observer could tell you she was wont to exaggerate the size of, for that dent was not so big that she couldn’t continue to live in Rosedale and hire somebody to clean her apartment once a week. At any rate, if she did not have the financial resources to afford the very best cancer treatment money can buy, it’s safe to say she would have died years before she did. She would have taken a dirt nap before I had even met her.
Her illness was pretty much in remission by the time I started working for her, and it was clear from the start that her post-cancer career objective was to get back what she lost, and then some. She was going to climb to the very summit of the summit of this testosterone-riddled corporate mountain to claim what she saw as her rightful place as a member of the Billionaire’s Club. At the time, I wasn’t really sure what to make of all that. I’ve never attempted to become a billionaire in my life, and had no clue what becoming a billionaire entails. I did think it was a bit strange that she used to have well-connected friends suggesting she marry this billionaire or that one shortly after her illness was medically confirmed to be in remission. She would turn them all down, determined to secure her place among the crème de la crème on her own terms.
I admired Ellis for that. I admired the fact that she had spunk and ambition and more gumption than completely healthy people less than half her age. It was an admiration that continually invited me for years to conveniently overlook some of the more eccentric aspects of her personality. I was admittedly something of a workaholic myself at the time (my starter marriage was to my career), and Ellis was a true workaholic’s workaholic. She never took a day off. Weekends and statutory holidays were meaningless to her. She loved children, but was so not down with becoming a mother. The responsibility of having to raise a son or daughter would just be an unwelcome distraction from her ultimate goal of ascending to the Billionaire Buddhahood. As far as she was concerned, any day not spent working was a day wasted. I never knew what Ellis was like prior to her cancer diagnosis, but from what I’ve read, she had always been a workaholic. She just became more of a workaholic in the latter half of her career. It is my belief that her initial brush with death had the effect of cranking her workaholism up to eleven. Today, I can proudly say that I’ve been cured of my morbid workaholism, and I have Ellis to thank for that. It was through her that I truly came to realize being a workaholic has a dark side to it.
In retrospect, I don’t think there was any one thing that made her completely snap. There were numerous factors at play. The deaths of both her parents (her mother in 2011 and her father in 2013) were most certainly a factor. Work-related agonies were likely another factor, not the least of which was a souring of professional relations between herself and a longstanding client of the firm over alleged financial mismanagement – an issue still pending before the courts to this day. The February 2013 death of Dr. Davinder Mehra – a man she would frequently refer to as her husband in conversation, and by all appearances was her better half and her rock – was arguably a bigger contributing factor than either of the other two. There’s indeed a case to be made for the notion that Dr. Mehra’s passing was the beginning of the end for her; he was in many ways her spirit guide, her guru, her Polaris. I also wouldn’t rule out the possibility that the cancer did nasty things to her head. It definitely wreaked havoc on her digestive system. Her stomach lining had gone from acidic to basic, leaving her completely unable to process most of the foodstuffs that the rest of us rely on for our daily sustenance. I’m by no means a medical expert or anything, but I’m pretty sure malnutrition causes people to do crazy things.
All in all though, I don’t see Ellis as any kind of victim of circumstance here. I think the majority of what caused her insanity was self-inflicted. Methinks her ability to choose her battles wisely completely went south in the post-cancer stage of her career. It most certainly did in the post-Dr. Mehra stage of her career. She was reaching for a star that was clearly beyond her grasp, and would end up incinerated by its heat and radiation. Like a modern-day Icarus.
If there’s anything more Type A than your garden-variety Type A personality, Ellis Kirkland would be it. This was a woman who lacked any ability to take a deep breath and calm down. She slept maybe two hours a night, and that was on a good night. The rest of the time, she was always on edge. All business, all the time. There was no dividing line whatsoever between her personal life and her professional life – the two were one and the same. She ran her business out of her apartment, one of her brothers was a vice-president in the company, and Dr. Mehra served as the nominal chairman of the board of directors. Her grasp of the concept of friendship was deficient, to put it mildly. The people she regularly referred to as her friends could be more accurately described as colleagues and business contacts. Just names in her Rolodex, and nothing more. She spent a considerable chunk of her childhood confined to a hospital bed because of various health problems, and once told me that all the friends she used to have as a kid are all dead now. If I recall, she said that to me in response to a request for respite from this suffocating work schedule to spend more quality time with friends. I think her whole attitude was that friends are a moneymaking opportunity at best, and an inconvenient burden at worst. And they’re never as important as work. Ever. Not even close. Mortal existence begins and ends with work; everything else is disposable.
This is to say nothing of her particular approach to her work. For starters, her corporate philosophy revolved around the idea that business is war, and that an ideal company ought to be run like the military. In her view, she was not merely the company’s President and CEO. She was a four-star general and commander of her corporate command. Her vice-presidents were her colonels, and people like me – the lowly people below the executive level – were the infantrymen on the front lines who dealt directly with the exploding ordnance and enemy gunfire. In some ways I could see where Ellis was going with all that; the level of competition in some lines of work is indeed nasty. Warlike, even. However, none of the generals I’ve ever met are anything like Ellis. No general in his right mind would willfully throw grenades at his own men. If Ellis was an actual general, she in all likelihood would’ve gotten court martialed for something. I deeply regret to say this, but she was about as fit to lead an army as this guy…
Don’t sweat the small stuff, you say? Fuck that ridiculous Oprah-esque claptrap! Ellis Kirkland was a hyperneurotic – in the universe according to her, there was no such thing as small stuff. If you took the bastard child of Tommy DeVito from Goodfellas and George Costanza and deep-fried him in a generous amount of the maddening quasi-religious fury captured in the first forty minutes of Full Metal Jacket, you’d have only a vague picture of what her managerial persona was like. Things that the average person would consider laughably petty (or would otherwise think nothing of) would be a twenty-seconds-to-midnight red-alert situation for Ellis. For example, she used to regularly flagellate me for committing such sins as failure to arrange the items in the refrigerator in alphabetical order (no joke, one day I spent half an hour that could’ve easily been used more productively categorizing the fridge, because she said so), or for using the standardized Canada Post two-letter abbreviation ON for Ontario in the mailing address of a parcel instead of writing the name Ontario in full (“because someone in YEMEN is not going to know what that means, you fucking asshole!” – her exact words to me, said, or rather yelled, in regards to a piece of mail that was not even leaving the country, let alone going to Yemen).
Working on the firm’s digital media was at times unpleasant. Ellis was always persnickety about minor details and was all in all a difficult woman to please, but that wasn’t the worst of it. When she was having a really bad day, it was not at all unusual for her to fly into a rage and utterly berate me and my work, screaming at the top of her lungs things like: “What kind of drugs are you on? Can’t you see that looks UGLY?! Are you really that fucking stupid?!” Sometimes, she would punctuate her rage by throwing random shit across the room, blaming me if said shit breaks. I recall several incidents where she would literally tear documents I was working on out of my hand and callously rip them up right in front of me, because fuck you, that’s why. If I so much as dared to suggest that she ought to do something about her anger problem, her response, expressed in her characteristic abrasive manner loud enough to wake all of Pompeii, would invariably be something along the lines of:
“I don’t have a fucking anger problem, you FUCKING asshole! I went to Harvard and you didn’t, so FUCK YOU!!!”
But hey, you can’t blame a man for trying. I can only hope she ate those words in the last couple of years before her untimely demise.
That’s just a small sampling of the abuse she dumped on me personally. I haven’t even gotten into what she did to other people yet. In the dozen years I worked for her, I would regularly witness her read the riot act to her executive assistant du jour for the high capital crime of failure to read her mind. For example, she once gave an EA complete shit for not knowing the phone number of a man the EA had never heard of hitherto. If I recall, Ellis’ instruction to said EA, in full, was “Call Ronnie!”, without specifying Ronnie who. The EA, a recent hire at the time who I think had only been with the firm a few weeks, was only aware of one Ronnie involved with the company. So she called that guy. A few minutes later, Ellis would throw a fit and feed her to the lions for calling the wrong Ronnie.
It’s entirely the EA’s fault, you see. Nothing was ever Ellis’ fault. In the throes of her up-to-eleven workaholism, Ellis began to have a certain quasi-Wahhabist mentality about herself. She saw herself as perfect and blameless and incapable of making a mistake, because Allah had perfected for her her religion and completed His favour on her (Allah in this case being Harvard University), and it was either treason or sacrilege to dishonour her and her family by suggesting she was ever at fault for anything. Should anything go horribly awry or otherwise fall short of her expectations, the first knee-jerk instinct was to blame it on the (metaphorical) Jews.
For Ellis’ purposes, the EA of the moment served as the de facto head of all corporate Jewry. An über-convenient lightning rod for her to dump all her rage and frustration upon. Needless to say, Ellis frequently found herself a Bond without a Moneypenny. The executive assistant position within the company had a tragicomically high turnover rate. Whoever the poor unfortunate soul was who donned that particular hat was basically tasked with being Smithers to her Mr. Burns, perhaps something even worse than that. I was temporarily forced into that position myself when a previous girl abruptly quit, and I can say without the slightest hint of exaggeration that having my genitalia slowly ripped off by the jaws of a famished Australian saltwater crocodile sounds like more fun to me than that job.
Then there was that other time she gave some hapless Bay Street office manager a tongue-lashing – she was giving a presentation to a client in said office, and the caterers double-crossed her by delivering the sandwiches at the exact hour they were supposed to. Despite the fact that they did their job, Ellis was incensed that the caterers came before she was finished with the first half of her presentation. How dare those pitiful insignificant manual labourers interrupt the oratory magic of the great and powerful Ellis Kirkland! The office manager in question was quite taken aback by her rageaholic tirade (what rational person wouldn’t be?), but the story didn’t come as a shock to me at all. This was the kind of shit I had to put up with on a daily basis. Ellis was the reigning autocrat of the known universe, and any workers below the executive level were the pigskins, punching bags, scapegoats and power tools who existed solely for Her Majesty’s convenience. Two plus two did not equal four, but whatever sum Her Majesty decreed it should equal, which was subject to change at any moment without warning. Who does she think she is, the Queen of Sheba? If you were to ask Ellis Kirkland that question in the last decade or so before the stabbing incident, her indubitable answer would be: “Yes I am the freaking Queen of Sheba! And may fire and damnation rain down upon any man who begs to differ…”
table of contents (PART II)
THE WESTERN BIRTH OF SILVER BROWN
To be fair, Ellis always did have a certain Trumpian inclination for self-aggrandizement. At least the Ellis I knew did. I remember one memorable incident back in 2005, when I had a steady gig as the webmaster and office assistant for the Atlantic Council (now the NATO Association of Canada). Ellis had pulled a few strings with the Council to get me that job, so I could get practical experience working with diplomats and military types. I have to say I’m grateful to her for that. It was a job I genuinely enjoyed, although I was burned out on it all after about a year and a half. One day Ellis called me at the Atlantic Council office to pass along some matter of business to the President. She was talking on her (non-hands-free) cellphone while driving, because laws against doing that didn’t exist back then. Towards the end of said discussion, she passed under a bridge, resulting in my conversation with her being briefly interrupted by the sound of her cellular signal breaking up (remember, this was back when the Motorola RAZR was the latest and greatest thing in mobile technology). When her Beemer had moved forward enough inches for her cell service to be restored, she quipped to me in a low breathy voice:
“That must be the aliens coming to Earth to benefit and learn from my brilliance!”
I didn’t say anything to her in response to that, mostly because I was too gobsmacked to utter so much as a grunt. The first thing on my mind when I got off the phone with her was the immediate realization that the record for the most conceited thing I’ve ever heard anyone say in my whole life had just been broken, by a considerable margin. She likely made the comment in jest, but it still handily blows everything else out of the water.
Conceited she was. I knew she was. But for years and years, Ellis’ conceit was something I took in stride. A part of me was actually expecting her to be conceited; I was literally raised to believe that conceit is practically second nature among people of her sort. You see, my parents were both dyed-in-the-wool Western Canadians. For those of you not familiar with the sociopolitical dynamic in Canada, the underlying current of disdain towards the perceived champagne socialist values of “The East” on the part of plenty of folks who inhabit our nation’s four westernmost provinces (with the notable exception of the Greater Vancouver area and British Columbia’s coastal regions in general, which are a lot like Seattle both meteorologically and politically) is eerily similar in many respects to the sentiments of Confederate flag-waving folks towards those damn Yankees.
Ontario’s sprawling megalopolis of a primate city is to people like my parents what cities like New York or San Francisco are to a clean-cut staunchly heterosexual white couple raising (and most likely homeschooling) their brood of little Christian soldiers somewhere in rural Oklahoma. In the world according to Mom and Pop, Toronto is a godless sin-sick cesspool chock full of unsaved heathens from other continents who eat strange food and have unpronounceable surnames, most of whom habitually elect the devil’s parties and don’t give much of a damn about Canada’s historical and constitutional ties to the Crown or her bygone heritage as an overseas dominion of the now-defunct British Empire, opting instead to embrace multiculturalism and other Trudeauist heresies. It also doesn’t help that Toronto is an entertainment mecca and one of Canada’s largest media markets, like a Hollywood and a New York rolled into one. A number of 24-hour cable channels and most of the national broadcasters are headquartered in the T-Dot, and in the view of much of the Western yokelry, these function like conduits for leftist smut, pumping the morally backward values of that “other” part of the country into the living rooms of the decent people of the nation’s breadbaskets and oil fields, where little soldiers of the cross can easily get their daily fix. The smut in question is noticeably influencing local culture in ways that do not amuse the yokelry. It wasn’t that long ago when the idea of holding a gay pride parade in the middle of a devoutly conservative prairie community like Steinbach would’ve been considered unthinkable. Then, to the surprise of many, Steinbach Pride was established as an annual event in 2016. Damn that wicked witch of the East and her many sticky slutty tentacles!
My parents hate big cities in general. The quaint 1950s values they morbidly cling to like grim death are pretty much extinct in any major metropolis you can name. But they especially hate Toronto. I gravitated there after graduation to seek opportunities, but my parents would never move there for any reason. They wouldn’t even move to any of the more reasonably-priced satellite cities around Toronto, because they hate Toronto that much. The general attitude out West is that Westerners are the real Canadians, and people from Toronto are just wannabe Americans. Kind of in the same way some folks in the Deep South are wont to see their own compatriots as the only true Americans, and New Englanders as wannabe Canadians.
I personally would stop short of calling the West a Canadian Dixie, though. There are a number of somewhat important differences between Dixie and Western Canada worth highlighting beyond the ones which are painfully obvious, i.e. the climate, the lingo, the local culinary tradition and the particular configuration of ethnic minorities regularly targeted for systematic abuse. These would include the following. In the West, the most widely spoken language after the Queen’s English (at least historically; recent immigration has likely changed the local demographics around a bit) is not Spanish or even French, but the auld tongue that flowed like sweet moonshine from the lips of every red-blooded tough-as-old-shoe-leather Canadian prairie boy’s great-grandpappy. That being, Ukrainian.
The West also never fought a war against the East. At least not the kind of war that involved muskets or bloodshed or anything of that nature. Instead they did something a little more Canadian, banding together to establish a Manly Pissed-Off Westerners Who Have a Mighty Bone to Pick with Them Prissy Limp-Wristed Latté-Sipping Boys with Vaginas Out East Party. What was the mighty bone in question, you ask? Well, in what they perceived to be in the best economic interests of their particular region, the West championed the right of a wealthy elite of deeply religious men to oppress an entire people and treat them like farm animals, and they had a bone to pick with those other guys on the wrong side of the country who took slight issue with the particulars of that. But it had nothing to do with the African slave trade, which had been abolished for at least a century before the Westerners got all pissed off. In Canada’s case, the wealthy elite was Big Oil.
The Pissed-Off Westerners accomplished quite a bit in their day, crushing all those hopeless obstacles in their path one by one as they infiltrated the cursed Eastern alliance to seize control of their prize – the House of Commons in Ottawa, key to ruling the whole kingdom. With waves of devastation in their wake and their eternal and mortal enemies all but decimated, the House would eventually fall to Western forces, and remain under their occupation for the next nine years. The newly-conquered lands were formerly part of a realm noted for (among other things) her secular culture, socialist leanings, high taxes, legalized same-sex marriage and overly friendly people, like a Sweden of the Americas. With the Pissed-Off Westerners now at the helm, that wannabe Sweden was to be reshaped and remolded into a rare example of an exporter of energy free of all socialistic and Islamic influence, a land where the Protestant work ethic would reign supreme until the glorious return of Our Lord, which will be soon. Very soon…
During the occupation of the Pissed-Off Westerners, Canada was without an actual prime minister. Our country was governed only by the work of the Lord Who You’re Not Legally or Constitutionally Obliged to Praise but Should Anyway If You Know What’s Best for You, executed through the hands of the Lord’s anointed, Pastor-President Brother Stephen (who incidentally was one of the original Pissed-Off Westerners, having been with the movement since the beginning). It was an arrangement which went down like the Hindenburg in the end, when our Pastor-President unwisely gambled on the notion that blatantly exploiting racist ways of thinking among party loyalists and taking advantage of the impeccable and stainless public image of former Toronto mayor Rob Ford (remember him?) would be foolproof methods for firing up the electorate in his favour. The Pastor-President’s Office would end up being abolished, along with the political aspirations of the first and only holder of that office, who went down with egg on his face, turfed from power and replaced by another one of them goshdarn lily-livered ladyboys from the vehemently hated oil-stealing Trudeau clan. But the West shall riiiiiise again! I know they will. Sooner or later. [EDIT 6/12/2021 15:29 UTC-5 …at this point I’m thinking later rather than sooner, in light of the recent failure of the Keystone XL deal and the general incompetent nincompoopery of Jason Kenney.] There’s a regional pride out West without question, one that comes with its own subset of dogmas, cultures and attitudes. One of those dogmas just happens to be the indisputable(?) truth that conceit is one of Toronto’s biggest exports. Verily, the whole city is a festering hive of it.
As an individual who has (for better or worse) been influenced to some degree or another by Western Canadian culture, I initially interpreted Ellis Kirkland’s pompous mannerisms and her shocking level of self-absorption as little more than an unfortunate by-product of a near-lifetime of Torontonian residency, and did my best to not let it affect our working relationship. In retrospect, I should have known something was slightly amiss that time one of her many executive assistants literally went insane. Or when another colleague, after being with the company for a mere two weeks, was driven right back to drinking again after fifteen consecutive years of unblemished sobriety. Almost all the lower-caste folk below the executive level consumed mood-altering substances with varying degrees of regularity, but that wasn’t a red flag to me. Neither was the general vibe of malcontent around the office. My father worked for a boss he couldn’t stand for years, so I felt I had no business complaining about Ellis’ soulsucking managerial style. Having to deal with soulsucking people is just an inescapable facet of life, I told myself. I continued to tell myself that even after my own mental health took a hit from all the nonstop agitation. I would eventually develop full-blown depression; there were many days when I couldn’t even be arsed to get out of bed in the morning. Yet, I worked in this fancy neighbourhood where I often bumped into celebrities on the street (including ones I’ve idolized since my Steve Vai wannabe days) doing things as mundane as walking their dogs. To me, that was the coolest thing. Not too many people could boast that. So I braved my deteriorating mental health and continued with this godforsaken job the best I could muster. Right up until November of 2015, when at long last I quit my job for good.
The last straw came the preceding April, when Ellis would cut an economic corner setting me up in what would turn out to be bedbug-infested accommodations. For those of you who have never had to deal with bedbugs, count your blessings. These are hands down the most insidious creatures on the face of God’s green earth. A thousand times worse than cockroaches. At least cockroaches aren’t picky eaters. A cockroach would be perfectly content chowing down on something as unappetizing as glue, blissfully indifferent to the presence of humans as it goes about its business. Bedbugs, on the other hand, do not look on humans with quite the same indifference. They love us. A lot. So much so, that they spend the daylight hours hiding in mattresses so they can come out at night and feast on that good stuff that flows through our veins, which incidentally is the only thing they feed on. Their feasting activities leave throbbing welts on the skin that itch like hell for days. You never have just one bedbug bite; you always have dozens of these welts all over your body at any given time. That’s not even the worst part. They’re also surprisingly clever at finding new ways to get access to that liquid Nutella; I’ve had bites in such awkward places as between my toes and deep inside my asscrack, speak nothing of parts unmentionable. Absolutely nothing is sacred to these critters; they’ll violate your body in whichever way is most convenient for them. Bedbugs are also notoriously difficult and expensive to get rid of. Once these guys set up shop in your house, the process of exterminating them may very well prove to be just as agonizing as the infestation itself, if not more so. They’re physically small and wafer-thin and can hide in an unlimited number of crevices in a typical human living space, able to survive up to a year and a half without feeding. Getting rid of them all usually involves throwing out half your shit. That comfy couch you relax on after a hard day’s work will likely have to be sent to a landfill, to say nothing of your mattress. If that’s not bad enough, a lot of bedbugs carry parasites, and transmit them to humans as they feed. Even if by some stroke of a miracle you completely contain a bedbug problem, you could still feel itchy from all the mites burrowing in your skin that the bedbugs leave behind. You need some kind of medicated lotion to deal with that, which usually doesn’t come cheap.
To be fair, I don’t believe Ellis was aware of the bedbug situation when she initially signed her name on the dotted line. But once the problem came to light, she blamed it on me immediately. Of course she had no evidence to back up her accusation, because Ellis Kirkland Almighty doesn’t need any stinking evidence. Her word was the only evidence required. This infestation was automatically my doing, because it just was. Because she said so. I was the most convenient scapegoat for the situation, and finding a scapegoat is an indispensable part of the modus operandi for an out-of-control narcissist with quasi-Wahhabist leanings and an increasingly senseless billionaire fetish. Remember that time Trump baselessly accused Obama of wiretapping him? When you have a God complex, that’s the way you think. Paranoia comes part and parcel with that particular psychological disorder.
An exterminator’s professional assessment of the situation would later confirm that the building had quite a storied history of bedbug infestation, and I had precisely nothing to do with it. So in the end, Ellis was proven wrong. Shock! Horror! It did little to make me feel any better, though. I felt insulted that Ellis saw fit to blame me for the problem right out of the gate, pronouncing me guilty and getting ready to feed me to the lions right up until the moment I was proven innocent. That hurt. Deeply.
Twelve years of my life that I’ll never get back went towards serving Ellis Kirkland and her business interests. Twelve very long years. I worked evenings and weekends, often for no extra pay, because if I refused, Ellis would declare me a spoiled pussy with an undeserved sense of entitlement (her words, not mine). Either that, or she would say something about Canada being destined to be a Third World country in the next twenty years, because in this country we place high value on devil’s doctrines such as individual rights and worker’s rights, and don’t have quite the same dedication to the principles of self-denying collectivism and unflinching loyalty to the party line as the People’s Republic of China. I put my social life on hold indefinitely for her, because she always used to get irate with me if I dared to make friends or lovers a higher priority in life than her. I gracefully tolerated the many Trumpian temper tantrums she used to throw at the office on a near-daily basis. If she asked me to do something completely degrading, I did it. Just to make her happy. I didn’t even get mad at her that time she rezoned at least eighty percent of my personal living quarters for use as storage space for the company while I was out of town without so much as even bothering to ask if it was okay with me first…
No matter what kind of bullet she would fire at me, I would absorb that bullet into my being and dissolve it into pure luminescence. My past study of various Mahayana teachings as a young twentysomething most certainly did come in handy in my dealings with Ellis. I was able to withstand her storms for years like that, until the day she fired the bullet I couldn’t dissolve.
My desire to be one of Ellis Kirkland’s corporate peons had already been on the decline for years before that, but the controversy over the bloodsucking critters was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. That was when it dawned on me that this whole situation had become many times worse than the movie Office Space. When the main character in that film declared he didn’t merely want to change jobs, but was not interested in holding any job at all, I could totally relate.
table of contents (PART II)
THE NORTHERN BIRTH OF SILVER BROWN
I somehow knew by intuition that, for the sake of salvaging what precious little remained of my morale and my sanity, I needed to get the hell out of this crazy urban jungle and take some kind of extended sabbatical deep in the wilderness, where I could relearn what it’s like to be something other than a rat in this rat race and get back in touch with my inner manitou. So a plan was eventually put in action to do just that. It was a plan that went off without a hitch, but said plan is certainly not one I would recommend anyone try at home, for it was something of a Faustian bargain executed out of sheer desperation – a desperation fueled and intensified by Ellis’ penchant for getting chummy with the spouses and loved ones of her staff members, so if need be she could harness their guilt-tripping powers for her own use as a secret weapon against any member of the staff who dared to stand up to her. Ellis was a certifiable expert at controlling and manipulating people with guilt; the Roman Catholic Church obviously taught her well. She had my whole family ensnared in that web of guilt. I effectively had no family, for they had been reduced to little more than appendages of the company. They were on her side, not mine. In my corner, I had no one. This necessitated some kind of alternate solution to my dilemma, which I’m officially not at liberty to talk about lest clowns eat me, and can only illustrate with this highly metaphorical and grossly exaggerated dramatization…
After taking that bullet, I would find myself temporarily resettled in a region of Canada that can rightfully described as neither East nor West, for it is located atop the colossal boulder that separates the two – a boulder which was put there by Nature herself, functionally serving as the Canadian equivalent of the Mason-Dixon line. This line is somewhat thicker than its American counterpart – thick enough to plant trees on it. Millions and millions of trees. No oil, just trees. A vast taiga which Easterners and Westerners are equally loathe to acknowledge of having any legitimate claim to being part of the Canadian family at all, like the neglected child of two squabbling parents forever arguing about the bills.
This was the Bodhi Tree in this region where I went to meditate, which resembles the Lorax of Dr. Seuss fame if you look at it from certain angles…
This was the beach, which remarkably only smelled of moose piss once in three years…
This was either the highway to hell or the stairway to heaven (not for sale), depending on which side of it you were standing and whatever the current phase of the moon happened to be at the moment…
This was a majestic beaver lodge in the middle of a marsh somewhere (it’s a bit hard to see; if you can find it, you don’t win shit) …
This was the great hole in the ground with no apparent purpose…
This was the bouncer who guarded the gate to the raunchiest discothéque in the area…
This was a shamanic altar honouring several local manidoowag, located not far from the beach…
This looks like a sacred phallus to me, so I’m just going to go with that. One of many within the vicinity of the altar…
This was some snake I saw on the beach once, who didn’t like having his picture taken…
This was a ritual stone circle, one of many scattered throughout these woods…
These are before and after shots of a wicker man that I burnt in sacrificial offering to the autumn sun (make what you will of the dragon poking its head out of the flames)…
This was the great totem of Kang (or Kodos), who I occasionally offered sacred smoke to in lieu of the manidoowag on the altar whenever I felt the need for a second opinion…
…and after making such an offering, I would frequently see one of these in the sky…
Behold, a dead rainbow. A more common sight throughout Turtle Island than most people realize, but well outside the visible light spectrum of any major transportation hub. To see one of these, you have to go far out into the sticks. Really far.
After five months of being really far out in those sticks, I would hear stories in the news of the employer I left behind in Toronto being taken into custody by the police, in grand Ellis Kirkland fashion. When I first heard she had stabbed a dude, I was in disbelief. Then I was just shocked. After many moons passed and the shock had worn off, the stabbing incident started to make sense to me in hindsight, in a weird kind of way.
I’ll explain, of course. Like I said before, Ellis had a certain quasi-Wahhabist mentality about herself. Some people might read that statement as an exaggeration, or at the very least as a metaphorical use of the term. But when I described her as a Wahhabist, I was only half-joking. With her workaholism at its peak, she had truly become a religious fanatic of sorts. She started out as an ordinary Maltese Catholic, like everybody else in her family. But never content to be ordinary, her brand of Catholicism was augmented by a certain belief in destiny – the idea that she was put on this earth by the Ancient of Days for some specific purpose. What was that purpose, you may ask? Only He knew. But there was some type of purpose without question, and presumably it had something to do with becoming a billionaire. Her adherence to that belief became more and more pathological and twisted as the years passed. She would become fully convinced of her own exceptionalism, to a point where her God had been reduced to little more than a variation of herself, with Money and Power rounding out her trinity. In her blind zeal for attaining Larryellisonirvana, she had become every bit as irrational and doctrinaire as any jihadist, or one of those big-haired preachers on television.
Speaking of which, I grew up out West, so I naturally know a thing or two about fundamentalism. My entire immediate family is fundamentalist, although every other generation apparently subscribes to a different dogma. While their parents before them were Baptist, my parents’ preferred denomination (as well as that of my siblings) is the Conservative Party of Canada. They talk intensely and lovingly about the Conservatives and what a friend we have in them and how great they art. They never talk about anything else. Why would they? There is no greater name than the Conservative Party of Canada and all of its provincial counterparts. It is the name above all other names. The greatest name they know. On Kelly the solid Block they stand, all other ground is sinking sand. As for them and their house, they will serve the Ford. Except I didn’t vote Conservative in the last two election cycles [EDIT 3/25/2020 12:43 UTC-5 Make that three election cycles. Andrew Scheer is a sanctimonious wankstain.][EDIT 4/18/2022 19:09 UTC-5 Going on four now. Erin O’Toole’s level of sanctimonious wankstainery was nowhere near as severe as that of his predecessor, and I do commend the man for his suggestion that the party try broadening its appeal to other demographics beyond prairie Bible thumpers and angry white men, even if the idea ultimately didn’t take. But gadzooks, just what was with all that flip-flopping?], so at family get-togethers I’m an abomination before the Ford and I’m going straight to hell. Whatever the Conservative version of hell is. You can let your imaginations run wild there.
One of the signature traits of this way of thinking is its dependence on enemies to perpetuate itself. The fundamentalist’s understanding of Good is rickety and crippled and not strong enough to stand up on its own without some kind of support, and requires an Evil to serve as its crutches. These days, gays and Muslims (and sometimes Mexicans) fulfill the role of that Evil among those who regularly thump Donald Trump’s rewrite of the Good Book. But for a fleeting moment, let us imagine a scenario where the entire LGBTQ community, the worldwide Islamic faithful and every so-called “shithole country” instantly became nonexistent tomorrow, and all memory of these were erased from our minds not more than three milliseconds afterward, like somebody zapped all our brains simultaneously with a highly specialized type of magnet made from a rare type of metal found only on Titan that humanity has yet to discover. If hypothetically a scenario like this were to occur, the Franklin Grahams, Tony Perkinses and Charles McVetys of the world would simply find some other bogeyman to dehumanize and blame all the world’s problems on. Maybe they’ll manufacture a new Communist threat, or start going after the witches again. Perhaps the age-old smear campaign against the Freemasons will be given another whirl, or they’ll take to exhuming the putrefied remains of that silly old urban legend from way back in the day that told us of backmasked satanic messages lurking in every doe-eyed teenager’s favourite jams. Hell, they might even revert to that gold standard of all-purpose convenient scapegoats – the Jews. [EDIT 6/06/2020 06:37 UTC-5 I think at this point it’s safe to say they’ve already gone Nazi.] But whichever route they end up taking, it’s a given they’ll find someone to pick on, for the fundamentalist is deathly allergic to the whole concept of peaceful coexistence with neighbours who are not like them and have no desire to be like them. These are people who thrive on belligerence.
[EDIT 10/10/2021 14:05 UTC-5 It appears we have new winner in the Evangelical Bogeyman sweepstakes. Medical science, of all things. Because there’s nothing more incompatible with the Christian faith than healing the sick. The Bible clearly says that Jesus went around beating up lepers and telling them to get jobs.]
If you’ve been constantly told since childhood that you are the salt and light of the earth (or have convinced yourself in your later years that you are) and that everybody who isn’t you should be looking to you for guidance if they know what’s best for them, then how pray tell shall we regard those who don’t? Why, as enemies, of course! Enemies who must be severely punished and soundly defeated in order to prove for all time the rightness of our claim to be salt and light, because heaven help us if anyone should come up with objective and demonstrable proof that we’re full of shit. Eventually the focus on defeating enemies takes over, to the point where it becomes the be-all-and-end-all of everything. That focus becomes so deeply ingrained into the fundamentalist’s ideology that whatever mental capacity they ever had to make do without it becomes thoroughly atrophied from lack of use. If they should for reasons beyond their own control lose that focus, finding themselves in a unique situation where there is no possible Abominable Other to speak of, they wouldn’t be able to deal at all. Their very means of functioning in the world will have vanished, resulting in all their feeble little minds bursting en masse like popping kernels, desperately turning their knives on each other in what basically amounts to a kind of cannibalism. Without an abundance of Evil to gorge upon, a fundamentalist’s soul would be famished.
It is my belief that Ellis Kirkland imploded when she ran out of bogeymen. She was rather fond of blaming me for every little thing that went wrong in her life, right up until I took myself out of the picture. She had probably lost another EA to boot. Evidently, she had lost a sufficient number of Evils in her life to bring about the certain failure of those brittle crutches supporting her whole conception of Good. When her crutches finally snapped like twigs, the sound they made was heard by every major news outlet in the country.
Ellis would spend the last couple of years of her life in a psychiatric hospital, by judicial order. Your guess is as good as mine as to whether she ever got back in touch with her humanity in that hospital. In January 2018, I would begin to hear rumours that she had passed away at sixty-two years of age. Exactly how she died depends on who you believe. One rumour said she passed away quietly in her sleep of apparent natural causes, other rumours said it was suicide. [EDIT 10/29/2019 08:08 UTC-5 …but the most plausible explanation I’ve heard so far is probably this one.] At any rate, the particular rumour concerning her alleged death irrespective of how it happened was personally confirmed to me over the phone early one morning by one of her brothers.
She would leave this world completely without fanfare. There were no immediate reports in the news about her passing. Not even an obituary printed in any of the local papers. The only mention of her death in any news source I’ve seen is a passing reference to it in the Globe article about her legal issues with Kashechewan cited above, which wasn’t published until months after she died. Outside of her family members and those within her inner circle, her death was a complete non-event. A curious end for someone who was so much larger than life, determined to make her mark on the world by any means necessary.
My most educated guess is that she had so much unspoken self-loathing that she didn’t feel worthy to be honoured in any way in death. She was very good at hiding that self-loathing while she was alive, at least up until the stabbing incident. If the situation called for it, she could be a regular Mother Teresa. However, most people were completely oblivious to the fact that she had another mode aside from Mother Teresa Mode. Prior to that fateful morning, she had done everything in her power to keep Gunnery Sergeant Hartman Mode hidden from the world, and it most certainly didn’t hurt that she had an expert ability to switch from one mode to the other at will, like flipping an invisible switch inside her head. If you were a paying client of the firm, or one of her many lawyers, or a fellow architect, or a cleric of any creed, or an active or retired member of the armed forces, or a member of the press, or a current or former politician or diplomat, or if you regularly heard people addressing you as Your Highness without any sarcastic or insulting implications, or if your business cards or personal letterhead sported a short paragraph’s worth of post-nominal letters, or if you were otherwise someone she deemed to be of any importance at all, she would go out of her way to treat you like a king. But if you never went to Harvard and lacked any kind of highfalutin title and just happened to be one of the least of her brethren, you had a front-row seat to Ellis Kirkland at her worst. Never mind the fact that the little people didn’t get the same royal treatment from her as the movers and shakers and the clientele and the well-to-do; you’d be lucky if she even bothered to treat you like a human being. There were days when even expecting to be treated like a vertebrate animal of some type or another was asking too much.
In spite of all that brilliance and greatness and exceptionalism and the infallible right bestowed upon her by the Ivy League and the Throne of God to be as cruel to those filthy maggots as she damn well wanted to be, Ellis Kirkland never did get that membership card in the Billionaire’s Club we all know the Universe most certainly owed to her. But hey, she became the talk of Toronto. For several hours at least. Until the next delusional crazy person did something outrageous enough to make the local news (there have been several high-profile incidents in the Toronto area since). From what I understand about the culture of the Ivy League, it’s considered shameful to become mere dust and bones at the end of one’s lifetime – one must leave behind a legacy so grand that people will still be talking about it in a hundred years’ time. I have no clue if becoming the talk of Toronto for several hours for doing something ethically questionable is that; it has nowhere near the legacy-building power as the collective misdeeds of someone like Al Capone or Hitler. But it’s something, isn’t it? It’s certainly not nothing. The fact that Ellis generated way more press in the immediate aftermath of the stabbing incident than she did in the entire twelve years I worked for her probably says more about the general depravity of the human species than it does about her specifically, but as sure as eggs is eggs, at least one of those voices in her head was delighted to have finally gotten her close-up.
When I first heard the news of Ellis Kirkland’s passing, there was some crazy part of me thinking she was going to do a Freddie Mercury sort of thing and bequeath half a million to her longsuffering personal assistant. There most certainly were rock gods living in Rosedale; I’ve seen at least one of them with my own eyes. Alas, it was just wishful thinking on my part. Ellis was no rock god. She was a (wannabe) one-percenter and corporate fat cat, much closer to a Donald Trump than a Freddie Mercury. She was moneyed and flamboyant and died without issue, just like Freddie…
…but as it would turn out, the similarities ended there. The only thing she left me, other than oodles of what Tibetan holy men would refer to as “crazy wisdom”, was a deep and painful laceration on my fractured shell-shocked soul.
If there’s such a thing as a hereafter (and I personally don’t think there is, but that’s another topic entirely), Ellis Kirkland’s ideal paradise would no doubt be something closely resembling Galt’s Gulch – the remote Colorado sanctuary depicted in the final third of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged where society’s “betters” (i.e. the wealthy elite) resettle to permanently separate themselves from the poor and starving masses, who can all fuck themselves and the stolen skateboards they rode on for being good-for-nothing looters (the only difference being that the Galt’s Gulch of Ellis’ fantasies would lack all that icky manual labour stuff; she would have a personal retinue of peasants to do that for her). That seems almost hard to believe, in light of the fact that Ellis devoted a lot of her professional energies in the latter half of her career trying to help the most destitute and the poorest of the poor. Simplest explanation: she was going for a Mother Teresa-like legacy to make herself worthy of the Ivy League pantheon, but everything backfired on her in the end. According to her professed theology, the poorest of the poor were created in the image of God. But perhaps as an unfortunate by-product of her self-assuredness of her own destiny (a very fundamentalist trait, by the way), the somewhat-less-destitute and the not-as-poor as the poorest of the poor (but still poor) were not. They were just maggots. Let them eat shit.
My shrink has recently given me a more or less clean bill of health, and enough of the old piss and vinegar has been restored that I feel that itch to move on with the next chapter of life and return to school – not just any school, mind you, but the very same one I aspired to attend back when I wanted to be a rock god (I felt the spirit of a certain punk rock queen calling me there, but that’s another story). I only lasted one semester there, but what an enlightening semester it was. It took a few years of therapy and the holy broccoli to get to that point, but I got there eventually. If there’s an Aesop to be taken away from all of this, it is that business and military have very different raisons d’être, and attempting to run one exactly like the other is an ill-considered tactic at best, if not outright dangerous. Let this be food for thought for those folks out in flyover country in desperate need of further convincing that putting an extravagantly wealthy and shamelessly self-absorbed publicity whore corporate executive with a hair-trigger temper in charge of an army is the most nonsensical idea since the pet rock. [EDIT 1/20/2021 17:09 UTC-5 …and now that THAT’S over with, don’t do that shit again. For the love of all that is holy…]
table of contents (PART II)
…which brings me to the point of this story…
During the long and slow healing process, a great ball of mental pus began to form on my wound. They say all the greatest art is born out of pain, so it was from that ball of pus that I began to spin this current literary opus. SILVER BROWN is either the lotus flower blossoming out of the truckloads of manure that were dumped on my head for twelve years, or it’s the magnificent piss stain I once told Ellis years ago I would leave behind on her grave. Either interpretation works for me.
SILVER BROWN: A Forwarpendix
Part I: The Introduction of SILVER BROWN
Part II: The Birth of SILVER BROWN
Part III: The Long and the Short of SILVER BROWN
Part IV: The World of SILVER BROWN
Part V: The People of SILVER BROWN
Part VI: The War of SILVER BROWN
Part VII: The Language of SILVER BROWN
Part VIII: The Dashing Prince of SILVER BROWN
SILVER BROWN: A Blog
Part XI: The Journey of SILVER BROWN
Part XII: The Soundtrack of SILVER BROWN
Part XIII: The Bullhorn of SILVER BROWN
Part XIV: The Green Grass of SILVER BROWN
Part XV: The Zen of SILVER BROWN