A Mission From Trees

Have I mentioned yet how much I hate winter?

“Biff…we get it,” said the fox. “You’ve told us over and over…you hate winter more than Windows 8.”

“Whoa now, fox,” I said. “The only thing in the world that’s as hateable as that is Windows 8.”

So, I guess I’ve mentioned how much I hate winter. I mean, It’s cold, dark, slippery, wet, icy, odourless…you have to wear 50 pounds of clothing, none of which includes sandals…oh…and get this…my friend Gary Stairs just came in and added one more thing about winter…it’s colorless. How could I have forgotten that one? I’ve shot winter pictures that have provoked people to ask what process I used to convert them to black and white…and they didn’t believe me when I told them they were in color. At least, until I hit them over the head with my camera several times, yelling, “It’s color! It’s color!” I’m really sensitive about these things. And my camera is heavy.

So…winter. It’s here. And I’m still waiting for summer. But you can’t always get what you want…but by jeezus…I’m going to get what I need. I need to get outside with my camera. I love the candid people portraits, but I dearly love nature. And trees.

Trees.

“What about trees, Biff?” said the fox.

They’re beautiful. They never stop being beautiful. They’re beautiful all year round…when they’re in full leafage in summer, green and glowing in the sun. When they’re erupting color in the fall and when that matrix of buds coats the branches with spots of green in the spring. They’re…

“Hey, Biff, aren’t you forgetting something?” said the fox.

“You’re really messing with my train of thought here, fox.”

“Uh…winter? Trees in the winter?”

Anyone have a good recipe for fox stew?

OK…trees in the winter. I really hate to say this, but trees in the winter take my breath away. Especially with a white coating of snow. I love the contrast, the delineation, the emphasis on structure that you don’t get with full foliage. In the summer you get form, shape, texture and color. All of which is pretty damn cool, but not as mesmerizing as when you can you can see right into the physical essence of something that predates even me.

I just stood outside Reads, under a tree with light snow packed gorgeously on its branches, and closed my eyes, listening, feeling, smelling…opening myself to the tree. After a couple minutes the tree spoke to me in the form of a large patch of snow plopping onto my head. But hey, if bird shit is supposed to be lucky…

My head is wet, but I’m not going to wipe it off. It’s a sign. I’m going to treat it like a christening and a calling and write holy things about trees. But not with words.

With my camera. This is what I need…to get outside with my camera every chance I get this winter and pay homage to the trees.

I inadvertently started this morning…before I knew that I was on a mission from the trees…

winter-5 winter-6 winter-8 winter-9 winter-7

Building a Path for Your Voice

trees

I’ve heard a lot about this thing called the writer’s voice…as though it’s some magical sound thingy that slides through the night and whispers breezes of joy into the ears of the reader…or rips through the fabric of the reader’s comfort zone and leaves a path of raised eyebrows and bumpy skin.

I’ve heard about this thing called the writer’s voice that readers and editors and critics wrap tightly around a pedestal and raise it into the sky with each successive publication of “THIS NEW VOICE!”

And therein lies the secret of becoming a successful writer: finding that distinctive voice that will distinguish you from the rest of the pack and vault you into riches and fame or critically correct obscurity. And your writing doesn’t even have to be good. It can be crap. But if it’s distinctive crap, it’ll sell…once the voice is out there, recognized, familiar and well-marketed.

But voice isn’t a style. Styles can be copied. It’s more like a personal resonance, a sense of the rhythm and flow of the way words would be used if they were read out load on a street corner, rise above the traffic and human bustle and still be heard. It’s the rhythm and flow of a human presence as distinctive as fingerprints and DNA…a rich flow of visual diction as well-composed as a great painting or photograph. It’s the rendering of thought through words so that it can’t be mistaken for any other voice.

The man who punctuates every sentence and thought with “fuck” is just as distinctive and memorable as a great orator. Once you hear it, you’ll never forget it no matter how much you’d like to…and you’ll always recognize it.

“So, Biff,” said the fox, “where do you find this thing called voice?”

“You don’t find it,” I said. “It finds you.”

“And just how might it find you?” said the fox, a little too arrogantly for my liking.

“Well,” I said, “one way is through mindless writing.”

“You’re joking, right?” said the fox.

“Let me explain…”

I teach a writing workshop call Writing Hurts Like Hell (and it does). In the first class I introduce my students to a this thing called mindless writing that I borrowed from Dorothea Brandt, who introduced it in her 1934 book On Becoming a Writer. It’s a little book, but it’s big on wisdom and great advice for anyone with aspirations of becoming a writer.

Here’s the gist of it: pick a word, a topic, a thought, a dream, a memory, a sentence, an object within view, a feeling, a concern, a theme, a conversation you overheard, a scent, a worry…anything that pops into your head.

Pick a length of time you intend to write. Start with five minutes. Being the cruel malicious bastard I am, I make my students start with fifteen minutes. Some of them run screaming from the class and drink too much for the rest of their lives. Now, start writing (preferably by hand with a pencil, pen or stick and sand…this has actually been proven to engage the mind more than a keyboard) about your chosen whatever.

Here’s the catch…you can’t stop writing until you’ve reached the time you set for yourself. If you stop to correct something, rewrite it or change it in any that will make it different from what you wrote…God will kill you. You have to keep writing even if you run out of things to say about your chosen whatever. You might have to change to another whatever or just repeat the last sentence you wrote until something new comes along. When this happens to my students, they write something like, “I hate this bastard, Biff. I hate him. I hate him. I hate him!” Surprisingly, this can occasionally lead to some genuinely insightful mindless writing.

But it’s worth the pain.

Mindless writing helps bring out the individual voice without judgement, editing or criticism. That voice that’s always inside you trying to get out, but pushed back inside with left brain thoughts like, “This is too flowery.” “This is too plain.” “This sucks.” We tend to write the way others expect us to write so we write for them, not for ourselves. We write in such a way as to gain the approval of those for whom we write, even if they’re imaginary spectres looking over our shoulders, and if we imagine they don’t approve of what we’re written, we scratch it out, delete it…deny it.

The last place you’ll find your own personal voice is in the approval of others. It just won’t happen.

Do this every morning. That’s the best time. It’ll give the right side of your head a boost that’ll charge your mundane day with creativity. But more importantly, the more you do it, the easier it will become. It will gain coherency, structure and uniqueness. Your voice will find you. It’s in there…you just have to give it a pathway out.

“So,” said the fox, “any other ways to find your voice?”

“Yep,” I said. “Get into arguments with yourself.”

“But…”

It’s a little like mindless writing except it has a definite structure: a dialogue. You write something down, complete with quotation marks and then disagree with what you said, complete with quotation marks. Then defend your statement. And go back and forth like this for a page or two or more if you’re really into it. You’d be surprised at how many times you’ll lose an argument with yourself.

The key to letting your voice find you with this way is to believe everything you say, on both sides of the argument. You’ll develop an objectivity that rises above criticism because your the one criticizing on both sides of the fence. You’ll rise above the na sayers because you will be them…along with the yea sayers. Think of it as a battle between your right brain and your left brain taking place in the stadium of your left brain.

Always good to hedge your bets.

Argue hard and furiously. And, unlike total all-out extreme mindless writing, you can stop and think about your arguments and counter arguments.

So how does your voice find you in this medley of dissention? Well, nothing brings out the inner self as convincingly as a good heated argument. Argue with yourself when you’re feeling kind of groovy. Argue with yourself when you’re angry at something. Argue with yourself when you have nothing else to do. Hell…have a drunken argument with yourself. Yell at yourself. Yell back. Sometimes, do some name-calling. You’d be surprised at what you may call yourself that might give pause for thought.

One little hint…keep it in writing. Don’t get into a shoving match or a fist fight. That’s called “hearing voices in the head.” That’s not what you want.

Keep this up and after a while, you’ll find one side winning more and more frequently. That’s your voice. You’ll know when you hear it because it will have found you.

This is one I don’t teach in my workshop because if I give away all my secrets, they won’t need me anymore and they’ll kill me. This is how Kung Fu masters die.

One last way to let your voice find you…blog. But write in a word processing program first…or pen, pencil, stick in sand. That way you’ll be writing for yourself. Then decide what you want to share and what you want to keep for yourself…and revise accordingly. Not giving a flying bat’s ass what anyone thinks about me…I never delete anything. I wrote it for myself…it’s my fucking voice and I argued and wrote mindlessly for millennia to get it, so put up or shut up.

Don’t mean to insult either of you, but that’s how I feel. You should feel the same way too.

(Next blog on voice…voice in photography…coming soon…or later.)

BTW, stopped making my daily decisions today. Reached where I wanted to be. Now to just go with the flow because I know where to swing the rudder.

Discovery

Every weekday morning for the last three years, I drive by a strip of woods that defines parallel symmetry, vertical symmetry and a nice sky. Every time I see those woods, I say to myself, “You have to take a picture of this.”

“And did you?” said the fox.

“I’m getting to that…if you don’t mind, fox,” I said.

Unfortunately, it’s on a stretch of road where it’s impossible to park…but has just enough room to set up a tripod and squeeze in a telephoto lens.

So, I’ve been doing this decision thing where I have to make an important decision each day and carry it out. It’s getting to be a royal pain in the ass and I think I’m going to stop doing it. Maybe that’ll be my decision for tomorrow, even thought it’s led to a few good things, like this morning, when I decided it was time to capture those woods. And today was a perfect day for it…mild with a mixture of sun and cloud and the air had a friendly mood. I had to park about a quarter mile away from my set-up spot, but since I didn’t go for a run that morning, the walk fit in nicely. Except the part where I opened my camera bag and saw that the lens I needed was still in the car. What the hell…did I mention it was a beautiful day with a big smile in the sky?

Now, this was the first time I’d seen this area up close. When I drive by it, I’m in the far lane and there’s a metal guard rail blocking most of the view. I’d always pictured nothing but wilderness, a place where bears and deer could congregate to talk about the human condition and maybe, like, figure us out because we sure as hell can’t.

Boy, was I wrong. There was a road down there. No bears. No deer. No solution to the human condition. I’d imagined something lofty reaching into the happy sky. But…a road? WTF? But, hey, it made for a nice leading line image. Like this one…

1

While I was taking this picture a passing car almost took my ass off. Yeah, that little room. I’d forgotten to put the photographer’s body into the equation. So, next picture I’m wrapped around my tripod so closely that we were one. This seemed to have an eerie effect on a woman in an SUV who was staring so intently at me wrapped around my tripod that she veered off the road a bit and was driving straight at me. Fortunately, she snapped out of it in time to veer away from me. So I got to keep my ass one more time. And I got this picture…

2

This is how I pictured it every time I drove by it. I looked around to see if anyone else was trying to separate me from my derriere but the road was clear and I got this image….

3

More of what I imagined. And I thought, got my images, time to head home and have a late breakfast. But then I saw this…

4

Got the camera out. Set the tripod up. Wrapped myself firmly around the tripod and got the image…about ten times before I got it right. Had three near-death experiences while I was shooting, but when you’re hot…you’re hot…and I was hot. I will say one thing though…trucks with those really really wide mirrors really suck. Especially when you can feel the wind coming off them a few inches from the back of your head.

And then, of course, I saw this…

5

Who in their right mind can resist a tree shot? A few minutes later, I saw this….

6

Surprisingly, nobody tried to remove my ass or the back of my head this time. This a really busy picture but I like the foreground. Somehow it reminds me of a farm I lived on just outside of Toronto when I was a kid. (That farm is now a big bronze building.)

A couple minutes later I came across something that made the whole trip out there ten times what I thought it would be. The lighting and contrast were perfect. I knew as soon as I saw it that it would be black and white. I took a properly exposed shot and an underexposed shot. The underexposed one described the feel of the place to a T. And this is what I ended up with…

7

I’m always amazed by this phenomena of getting so much more when you get off your ass and go for what you want. It’s kinda like…a discovery

Lesson learned: Always check out your equipment to make sure you have the lenses you need. And…you can replace your camera…but you can’t replace your ass. Keep it tucked into your tripod.

Finishing

Tree 2

There is nothing more orgasmic than writing a beautiful sentence…even if you’re the only one in the world who can appreciate its beauty. But then…then…there’s compiling all those beautiful sentences into a complete whole. In my case…like…Biff Does Vegas. But my kids might be reading this blog, so we’ll leave it at that.

OK…I like the trip there. I always have. I wrote something on my LinkedIn to the effect that sitting at the top of the mountain with a beautiful view is cool but, hell, the adventure’s over. So I’m not a big fan of finishing. I’m into the trip.

But then, things finish. If they don’t, the journey’s going nowhere. Such is the hell we have to live with in this universe that never seems to make sense.

Let me tell you a story.

“Please do,” said the fox.

Guess what, fox? It’s fuck off Thursday. So…please do.

I’ve written novels that took me up to three years to write. Hey, I work and do lots of other shit. My last novel, Reality Wars, took exactly three years.

But then, I’ve written short stories that took me longer. One of them, The Nickel, took ten years. And it’s like…twenty or thirty pages.

I was traveling out to Vancouver with a friend who’s car broke down on the busiest street in Winnipeg during rush hour traffic. The engine fell out. We sold what was left of the car to Trapper John’s Used Cars, Best Deal In Town, or something like that. Got $99.

Took a bus the rest of the way. Glad that happened though, because it inspired the best story I’ve ever written or ever will write. It was in Saskatchewan that the bus passed an intersection in the middle of nowhere. I mean, there was nothing but flatness for a thousand thousand miles in every direction. But there was this intersection where two roads crossed paths.

And there was a sign. It read: D NAT ONS. I mean, wtf, in the middle of nowhere? Donations for what? And there was a donation box below the sign. Did I mention wtf? That image suck to the inside of my mind like the worst booger from somebody else on the elevator that ever was that sticky.

I carried it out to Vancouver where things got so hot I had to leave and come back to New Brunswick where the woman I loved still lived. I carried it through about another day or two before I was hit by 50,000 volts of inspiration and started writing about it.

I wrote furiously…like…I burned the letters off my typewriter (remember those? those things that didn’t allow you to cut and paste, and if you burned the manuscript for a novel…without a carbon copy…well…goodbye novel). But I stopped just short of finishing. It was like the journey with no end in sight. No reason to continue. There was no ending. So, I put it away for a while. About three years. And brought it out again…and got another few pages. But no ending.

It wasn’t until several years later that I took my type-written manuscript to work with me that the juices started flowing again. And, boy, did they flow. I was a bartender in a the games room of a night club. (NOTE: want to learn about people…spend a few years working as a bartender. END OF NOTE.) It was quiet that night. Well, it was still early and the only customers I had at the bar were three members of the Princess Pats regiment. There was a military base close by.

I started to work…with pen…on the next page of the story. And the next page. I’d already passed the work up till then to the three guys at the bar and then passed each page to them as I finished it. I got three or four pages done that night…before things started to get busy and I had no time to write. Boy, were they pissed that they didn’t get to read the end of the story.

But I knew I was close to the end, close to finishing. I put the pages away and got people drunk for the rest of the night. Those pages stayed as they were for another few years, teetering on the edge of finishing. Until one day or night…I honestly don’t remember…I finished it. It was just one more page.

One more page. I waited years for that one more page. Waited that long to finish it. The story won an award in an Australian literary magazine site and was later re-published in the Projected Letters Literary Magazine (now defunct until the publishers get off their academic asses and do something useful). But the journey was over. I knew the ending. It was a beautiful view.

And this is why I drive everything I’ve written out of my mind and focus just on what I’m writing now.

The adventure.

I’ll put that story here tomorrow. It’s an adventure itself.

Tree 3

How to Write a Poem and Become a Poet

OK, so I’m not really a poet. I’m a prose writer…novels, short stories, non-fiction and blog ramblings like this one. But I’ve managed to trick more than one publisher into accepting a few poems I inadvertently wrote in moments of temporary madness. And that, of course, makes me an expert on how to write poems and be a poet, whether I know how or not. Because it’s all about tricking the publishers.

So listen up because I’m not going to repeat any of this to either of you.

“A little harsh tonight, Biff?” said the fox. “And maybe a little out of contact with reality? All they have to do is re-read it.”

“It’s always better the first time around. Don’t you have some hounds to avoid?”

Now, while the fox is looking around for hounds, I’ll tell you how to write a poem and become a poet.

First, you’ll need wine. Lots of wine. Preferably red wine. Poets always drink red wine. In my delusional college days when I thought I was a poet, I drank red wine while writing poetry and stopped only when I was too hammered to hammer out the words. Sure, this approach does put a lot emphasis on revision but isn’t that what writing is all about anyway? Poet Rule #1: A healthy liver is a sure sign of an under-achieving poet.

You need a quill pen and a bottle of ink. Sorry, but word processors don’t cut it for poetry. There’s no pain. You have to prick yourself with pen nibs, spill black ink on your best white sweater, scratch the crap out your mistakes and first thoughts so that you can barely read the manuscript the next day, when you’re sober enough to read what you wrote the night before. Think of the ink flowing onto the parchment (yes, parchment) as you…bleeding your life onto the paper. I tried this with red ink once, just once. It was almost impossible to distinguish between the red ink and the wine spills. You’re welcome.

You’ll have to sell your car and buy a horse. Poets have an image to keep up and they don’t ride anything they can’t wrap their legs around. It’s all that bumping and fresh air that stimulates the brain and the brawn and makes it possible for the poet to drink wine longer and therefore write poetry for longer periods. Which, of course, means more re-writing, but that’s what it’s all about.

If you have car keys in your pocket, you’re not a poet and therefore you cannot write poetry.

“Biff,” said the fox, “you used therefore twice in the same paragraph. Don’t you think that’s a little pretentious?”

“I think I hear horns in the distance. Can’t you hear them?”

So, if you have a car and you have one or more volumes of poetry published, then you’re much better then me at tricking publishers.”
You have to live in torment. If you’re happy, write self-help books. Poetry has no room for the un-suffering. If you’re happily married, do something to really piss off your partner. Do it every day and then wallow in self-pity when you arrive at an empty home and a note on the coffee table. Wallow with your quill. Cry and pull at your hair as you slurp wine and spill soul blood onto the parchment. If someone tells you it’s a beautiful day, doubt them. Wait for the storm. If it doesn’t come, go to the storm. There’s always a storm somewhere. Find it. Wallow in it. If there are no mud puddles, make one. Fall into in it and curse your luck for falling into the only mud puddle for miles around. Then…write. Write poetry. Fill page after page with your misery.

Find a biographer, someone who will put up with your whining and crying and think that it makes you the stuff of great literary history. Your biographer will be a constant source of ego, and you’ll need lots of ego if you’re going to be a successful poet. Poets are famous for their egos. Without the ego, people won’t read you. Don’t ever let your biographer catch you being humble. Treat your biographer with contempt or they’ll desert you and find someone with a real ego to treat them like shit.

Eat lots of cheese, the raunchiest cheese you can find. Obnoxious blue cheese is good for this. Carry some in your pocket and bring it out often when you’re in public. Chew it with your mouth open. This will attract attention and convince people that you’re a rebel, that you’re living in hell and only the strongest cheese will assuage your pain. And don’t forget to attack the cheese as though you haven’t eaten in weeks. Poets are all about the drama.

Die young. But not before your biographer. Now…you have to get this one right because you don’t get a second chance. Die tragically. Die with drama. Fall from a 300 foot cliff, be trampled by a herd of mad cows, go for long walks in thunder storms, ski in avalanche territory, be bitten by venomous snakes, catch a topical disease and drag it out for all it’s worth. Canes help in your last days, especially if it’s all that’s left behind when your body is swept out to sea in a tempest.

When you’re dead, come back and haunt the last place you lived in, preferably a hotel or bed and breakfast by a graveyard or moor. Don’t actually hurt anyone. Just give them the creeps enough so that they’ll recommend your haunting to their friends. Nobody likes a ghost who plays hardball.

Now, before the fox gives up trying to hear the horns, pick one of the pictures below and write something poetic. It doesn’t have to rhyme and it doesn’t have to make sense…it just has to show your pain. Like…stairs were my Waterloo. Grass pierced my soul. Go for it.

Stairs

Grass

Thoughts On Remembrance Day 2014

remem-0418

I hate this time of year. It was this time of year that my parents died, a year apart. It’s in these weeks that the leaves on the ground are getting to that crispy stage where jumping into piles of them isn’t a hell of lot of fun anymore. You can feel the autumn air taking a deep breath before the fury of winter blasts away our sandals and t-shirts.

It usually rains or snows on Remembrance Day. It seems to be a tradition for the earth to share our sense of loss over those who gave their lives for something they believed in…a state of mind that I’m seeing less and less over half a century since the last big war. But I won’t get into that now. It’s Remembrance Day, a time to remember.

It didn’t snow or rain today. It was cool, but mostly a crispy autumn day (though I could still feel the air taking that deep breath) and, strangely, this year I wasn’t preoccupied with the loss of my parents. Right, my  parents.

Want to hear a romantic war story?

Too bad…I’m telling it anyway.

My parents were childhood sweethearts. They practically grew up together and they were always together…until the war came along. They both joined up. Dad went to Europe and Mom went to Ottawa. Dad went from France to Africa to Italy. Mom stayed in Ottawa where she had to send out telegraphs to parents whose worst hell was receiving those messages.

Dad was shot in the leg in Italy. On the other side of the world, Mom was asleep. She had a nightmare. She dreamed that Dad was shot in the leg at the exact time he was shot in the leg. After the war she described the setting where he was shot as though she had been there. She had it right down to the types of light. This kind of thing runs in my family.

But that’s not the end of the story. Now, we switch from romance to humor. Want to hear some humor?

“Of course they do,” said the fox. “That’s the only reason the two of them come here.”

Sometimes the fox can be annoying.

As I said, Mom was in Ottawa sending out the telegraphs when she received the notice that her fiancé had been shot in the leg. She wasn’t going to send a telegraph to her future in-laws, and I’m not even sure if they sent out the notices for non-fatal wounds. She wanted to phone them. BTW, she’d just been promoted to sergeant that day. When she reached for the phone, after mentioning to the WAC beside her what she was going to do, a captain told her she wasn’t allowed to make the call. It was against protocol. That wasn’t going to stop Mom, though. The captain tried to grab the phone away from her and Mom clocked her a good one that knocked her off her feet.

Long story short…she was back to being a corporal by the time the war ended.

Meanwhile, back in Italy, Dad was in a field hospital, wounded after being in the war for a couple of years…when he received his draft notice.

He was a couple of years under age when he’d joined up.

I think this is the part that we lose over time when we remember those who gave their lives for something they believed in…they had stories beyond the headstones, the wreaths, the crosses and the poppies.

They had stories.

And did I say I wasn’t preoccupied with my parents this year?

Big

For several years, I’ve documented (with my camera, of course) a large part of the Freddie Beach arts community at exhibition launches, art talks and even in their studios and homes clicking like a madman mainlining coffee until they tell me to get the hell out.

One of these artists, Deanna Musgrave, has always been one of my favorites…and I think I’ve taken 58,424,398.5 pictures of her over the last six or seven years.

If you live in Freddie Beach or have visited this burg and you’ve been to Wilser’s (formerly the Tap Room) then you’ve seen one her pieces on the outside wall just as you through the door. It’s big, it’s red and it eats people. So don’t get too close to it.

I have one of her paintings on my living room wall that she gave me for being the MC at hers and Andrew’s wedding (Andrew is a brilliant musician and composer) even though I attacked several people sitting at a table close to me with my reading glasses.

Deanna has always wanted to do something big. Really big. A few years ago, she created Tropos, a huge multimedia mural that filled one of the galleries at the UNB Art Center. And I mean filled it. It was like walking into the gallery and finding yourself completely surrounded by art.

Yeah…that big…that cool.

But that wasn’t big enough. She wanted bigger, bigger and bigger. That big. And she got it.

It started with the UNB Art for New Spaces Committee choosing Deanna to create a mural for the Hans W. Klohn Commons on the Saint John campus. You can read more about it here…and see one of the 58,424,398.5 pictures I’ve taken of her over the last six or seven years.

It’s so big, she had to rent a warehouse to do it. The piece is eleven feet high and, get this, 56 feet long.

Warehouse big.

This big…

Warehouse

Like I said…big.

How My Life Seems to be Held Together by Duck Tape

And yes…that’s what it really is…duck tape. That’s what it became known as when Johnson & Johnson brought it out during World War 2 for soldiers to waterproof their ammo cans. They said it shed moisture “like water off the back of a duck.” Thus…duck tape. After the war, a new version was sold specifically for heating ducts, which of course, threw the entire world into confusion, but now you know and you can finally sleep soundly tonight.

It’s become a household gotta-be-there kind of thing. You can tell when someone doesn’t have duck tape in their home. As soon as you walk in the door. Its absence is a tangible thing that sits a the heart of the building like a woman waiting for her man to come back from the war. That sad.

Duck tape held my car together for over a year once upon a time a couple of years ago. Someone (I’m guessing…in a truck) backed into my car and left the mall parking lot without leaving a note. Not even to say, “Sorry bud. If it’s any consulation…I broke a tail light.”

The front driver’s side of my car was squashed in and the mirror was dangling like the arm of a zombie after meeting the arm-wrestler dead guy. It clittered and scraped all the way home, but it didn’t fall off and the electronics still worked.

At the time, I was saving my money for six-pack of beer so I couldn’t get the thing fixed. So, what’s a Biff with a broken car to do?

Duck tape.

I fitted the mirror as best I could and wrapped it tightly in duck tape, even covering the huge whole in the top. I tested it about as hard as a moderately strong wind. It held. I wrapped some more around it and then taped up the side of the front bumper where it was attached to the fender. Didn’t like the thought of driving down the highway and running over my own front bumper. I mimicked a New Brunswick pothole, thereby pissing off a few neighbours, especially the sound effects. It held. I thought, “Not bad, Biff. This is going to work.”

A couple of months later, the mirror fell off and dangled for a few hundred miles on the way back from a trip to Toronto. It dangled and made obscene noises until I remembered that I had duck tape under my seat. Quick stop, quick fix, on the road again.

I had leaky plumbing in my kitchen many years ago. Strange things were crawling into it and using it as a path from the cabinet (which I never opened because of the strange things) right up to my sink. These were things I didn’t want to see. They were harmless but strange. Ever try washing dishes with your eyes closed?

After loosing some of my best dishes and almost all my glasses I decided to bring in the heavy guns. Duck tape. Eyes tightly closed, I tore off strip after strip of the tape, reached in and wrapped the pipe as strange things breathed on my hands. For the rest of my tenancy, not one strange thing got into my sink and I never had to open that cabinet again.

I had a chandelier in my living room. One night, it dropped about a foot out off the ceiling. There didn’t seem to be any reason for this. Maybe it was trying to escape or get closer to the floor. Maybe it didn’t want to be a chandelier anymore. Maybe it wanted to be a chair. Whatever. There was loose bare wiring. The stuff that fires and electrocutions are made of. I couldn’t let this go on. So who ya gonna call?

“Duck tape, Biff?” said the fox.

Nailed it, fox. Everything went well to begin with. Got the wires all wrapped up without setting the place on fire or electrocuting myself but, just as I was pushing the base of the chandelier back up to the ceiling where I planned to duck tape it in place, the stool I was standing on decided to go somewhere else and I ended up swinging on the chandelier which, because of duck tape, didn’t send me crashing to the floor.

Duck tape.

I went down the Matapedia River with my friend Nanook of the Nashwaak one year. We were using his wooden Chestnut canoe. Beautiful canoe, but wooden. We met a rock that ate canoes for breakfast. It didn’t eat the canoe, or us, but it took a big nasty bite out of the bottom of the canoe and water started leaking in. We were doomed. We didn’t have enough beer to handle this situation. But, after we stopped screaming, “We’re doomed! We’re doomed! We don’t have enough beer for this!” Nanook remembered that he had duck tape.

I mean, this stuff kept moisture out of ammo cans. During a war. Quick stop, quick fix, couple of beers, on the river again. Lasted all the way down the Matapedia and onto the Restiqouche.

Once upon a time, I had a broken heart. I duck-taped it. I wouldn’t recommend this. You cough up duck tape balls. It’s embarrassing when you’re in public trying to act normal.

I’ve used duck tape to stop the flow of blood from cuts. I wrapped it around my chest once when I broke at least two ribs after getting into a drunken brawl with gravity while I was on my bike. Going down a hill. A steep hill. With lots of gravity around it. Listen, both of you…don’t ever do that.

Unless you have lots of duck tape.

Cabin

Without duck tape, I would never have captured this picture on the Restigouche River.

Taken with a little  red Kodak 35mm point and shoot.

Coming in the near future (maybe) (probably not): How WD-40 Saved Humanity From Itself. (But…maybe)