Every day that goes by I’m more and more convinced that this man is a genius:

Ta-nehisi Coates is maybe the most underrated non-fiction writer/journalist/blogger in America. He writes about uncomfortable topics in a way that’s gorgeously expressive AND succinct.

Tough medicine. It’s always more comforting to think that some all-powerful being (rich white men, the media, big business etc.) has brainwashed “The People.” But when you start delving into this stuff, you realize that often those institutions are performing in the service of actual human beings, many of them not so rich, and not so powerful.

“The People” aren’t noble. And they aren’t evil, either. After dealing with my own writing, with my own family, and with my own person, I find it difficult to muster the energy to master the details of climate change. And I write for a living. But damn if I can barely keep my living room clean.

I thought about this last week while attempting to follow through on a promise to my family, to cook more. I grew up in household where my Dad cooked. My cornbread game is not to be slept on. But cooking right, and cleaning right is hard work, and takes a lot of time. There is a reason people go to McDonald’s every night for dinner.  Perhaps the reason isn’t a good one, but it’s not stupid or pathological.

Ditto with political coverage. The shouting heads exist for a reason– we invented them.

30 Hours in Toronto

I just got back from 30 hours in Toronto.

First, I went shopping. I went to really nice stores looking for really nice shoes. I was fully expecting to be judged, to get the snooty treatment I usually get when I go into nice stores dressed in the schlumpy way I always am. I walked into the Holt Renfrew shoe department with an apologetic look on my face, waiting to be kicked out for wearing $12 sneakers. A sales lady in very nice shoes greeted me warmly. I asked to try on a $500 pair of shoes, and she didn’t balk, she didn’t call me on it, she just went and got them in my size and handed me the box with a smile on her face.

“Let me know if you need another size.”

I went into another nice store and looked at shoes I had no business looking at. The man in the store smiled and said,

“And how are you today?”

I stared at him for a second, blinking in shock. “Um, good.”

“Let me know if I can help you with anything.”

“Uh, okay.” I blinked some more. Now I looked broke and retarded.

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This kind of treatment can be explained in several different ways.

One, though I didn’t buy shoes, I could afford to buy them. This is a first.  I’ve been saving up for ages and I do plan on buying a sassy pair of expensive shoes at some point in the near future. Even though I looked like an impoverished student, maybe they could smell the money in my bank account, money that is in fact, designated for this very purpose. This wouldn’t surprise me one bit.

Two, it’s been two years since I went into many of these stores and got the Pretty Woman treatment.( Stores like this don’t exist in PEI). Maybe now that I’m in my mid-twenties and look it, they think that I have a real job and can afford this stuff and I’m just dressing this way because it’s hip or trendy or whatever.

Three, and probably the most likely: maybe people are less snooty in Toronto stores than they are in Montreal. Maybe they’re instructed by their managers to be nice to everyone who comes in the front door whether or not they are buying anything.

Then I met Diana and Elysse for dinner, which was lovely. I stayed at Diana’s, which took me right back to high school, and we stayed up late and talked till my voice was horse. Her kitten woke me up at 7:30am  by walking on my face.

I walked down Spadina to the convention centre to meet Callum and Beth at the Fan Expo.

In Chinatown whole familes of Chinese people were unpacking the fruit and veggie crates, sorting everything into the outdoor bins that line the streets.  The youngest kids and the oldest grandparents tossed crates and boxes. It was fun to watch the place come to life.

I sat in a Tim Horton’s on Front St. and watched people line up for the comic con for over an hour. There was a shocking amount of “normal” people streaming into the convention centre: non-nerds, without costumes, lining up with their strollers and wives and little kids. Callum and Beth showed up and we got into the biggest line-up I’ve ever been in my life. Slowly, we descended the floors of the convention centre into the subterranean geekfest. It took three hours of standing in line to even get down to the right floor. The food was crap, the fat sweaty guys in costume were obnoxious, at least twenty-five thousand people were all packed into two floors and Leonard Nimoy was charging 60 bucks an autograph. I get anxious in crowds at the best of time: this was the single most overwhelming experience of my life. A Kiss concert would be like a yoga retreat compared to this.

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But still, it was a worthwhile experience. There were great artists displaying their work, the people watching was phenomenal: Beth said later as we were driving home, “There were probably fifty thousand people there,” and Callum replied “And only a thousand of them have ever had sex.”

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