Register Sunday | June 16 | 2019

getting stupid

I realized that things were getting stupid when I took note of the fact that I was multitasking by brushing my teeth in bed.

For real. I've discovered that, by propping myself up on two pillows and tipping my head back slightly, I can brush my teeth, top and bottom, without spilling a single fleck of minty blue foam down the front of my pajamas, or down my throat for that matter.

The rationale for this, somewhere in the back of my weak, foggy head, was that I was saving time - by brushing my teeth in bed, I was both performing my ablutions and catching up on some valuable r&r before passing out from exhaustion.

This is obviously wrong. But I've been the kind of stupid, relentless, self-perpetuating busy lately that's borne of not having time to think about what you're doing and whether or not it's head-slappin' dumb.

Anyway, here are some things, aside from the toothbrush trick, I've learned in the past week or so:

Microfiche - it's in the basement of the Toronto Reference Library, and it makes you both seasick and nostalgic. It feels like you should be wearing a calf-length fawn-coloured skirt and big pink butterfly glasses and talking into a mini-cassette recorder and getting picked up later by a guy named AJ with a blond moustache who will take you out for salad and line-dancing at an urban disco country bar. I was looking up some news stories from 1989 for a "where are they now" piece I'm writing. What a terrible year 1989 was: like now, in a lot of ways, with a Bush in the White House, making noise about how Iraq might be developing nuclear weapons; only this Bush left the malapropisms to Quayle, thereby missing out on a juicy slice of the yokel vote. On the other hand, they had Calvin and Hobbes in the paper.

The Parkdale Library - has a peculiar smell that can be mainly traced back to one guy. It's not an entirely unpleasant smell, at least not until you get close to the source. From a distance, say fifteen meters or so, it's kind of earthy, like a barn that used to contain mixed livestock - some chickens, some goats - but has been abandoned for a couple of years. At about five meters, it resolves itself into the usual suspects, sad smells that inspire sympathy because nobody smells that way on purpose, if they have a shower and someplace clean and safe to sleep at night - stale tobacco, pee, an eminently unwashed and never-removed blue sweater. At ground zero, it's something else entirely, an olfactory corollary to the argument put forth by my friend Heath the other day that there is no bottom end to the human potential for evil. The thing is, it's a part of the building now, soaked into the carpets, detectable even when he's not there, as important to the ecosystem of the place as the wilting plant by the photocopier or the cluster of kids playing video games on the research computers in the back and swearing louder and louder until they get kicked out at the same time every day.

The Profile - I've been writing profiles lately, and it's weirding me out. I'm not normally very observant, partly due to the abovementioned weak, foggy brain and partly because I don't think it's entirely tactful to notice things about other people, unless they're things that are obviously meant to be noticed, like new shoes. So paying full attention to a person - even a very nice person - and trying to get to know them not for personal reasons but in order to disseminate what I've noticed about them to the reading public, makes me a bit seasick, like the microfiche.

Because you get things like this (fabricated in detail, but absolutely true in spirit): "Why, just two weeks ago - it was Bobby's birthday, as a matter of fact - he was out working in the back forty and he stepped on a nail, but did he stop working? Oh, no - he just worked all day, with that nail stuck in his foot. By dinnertime, of course, we had to rush him to the hospital with blood poisoning, so Bobby didn't get a birthday party after all." Which I find positively Gothic, but can I put it in the profile? Not in this kind of profile, I can't.

Brushing Teeth in Bed - What's really stupid about it is, when all is said and done, you still have to get up to spit out the toothpaste.