The Sensual Shave

In which the Elegant Bastard notices that the world and time, both too much with us, can sometimes be set aside.

The clock screams six short fast insults that follow me out of the bedroom.

I have a 9 a.m.meeting.

And …

A breakfast to swallow, trains to chase, words to scan, a shirt to button … damn … a stain … another set of buttons, attachments to download, a four-pawed bowel whimpering that it needs to be emptied, now! … a counter to clean, a slow-cooker to pack, promises to keep, miles to go …

And …

I have to shave ….

Already 6:05

 With a quick squirt here, and a fast scrape there, here some blood, there a rash, everywhere a fast-building-close-to-the-bone-need-and-desire-to SCREAM:

“I hate shaving!”

But another voice tells me to be quiet and in response to the pressure of a palm pressed firmly against my back, I stumble into the small bathroom.

It is 6:15

The room is almost dark. A row of small flickering candles has been lit and they send soft shadows rippling up the walls, over the ceiling, and, as I feel my shirt unbuttoning again, across and down my chest – all delicate motions that seem to move with the muted strains of Orinoco Flow coming from some distant source. My watch is being removed and I try for a quick worried glimpse of its face but I am too late and it disappears.

I glance down.

Two bottles of oil are raised before my face – one is tarragon scented, the other sandalwood, and then the cover of an elegant black pot is removed, revealing a rich white cream that adds a hint of lavender. A brush appears, dry and soft, and something sends my nose thrusting forward deeply into its circle of supple hairs. And I breathe.

My eyes open and I catch a flash of fire. It is my father’s old straight razor, sharpened and glinting, its bone handle and cutting edge set at 45 o, as if fixed in a dangerous grin. Then hands wave in front of me. The razor disappears and then reappears, now straight, and it is laid before me.

“Sail away, sail away, sail away …”

I feel four fingers draw slow circles across my cheeks and chin and down my throat, and with soft strokes they oil the surface of my skin a first time, and then again and once again before they pause. Steam rises from the basin, and the brush returns and soon a thick cream overlays the oil, creating a white mask from the base of my throat to the curve of my cheek bones. When I glance in the mirror, eyes I have not seen before gaze back.

The blade rises ….

“from Bali to Cali far beneath …”

 … and rests its edge upon my cheek; at this touch and promise, anticipation stirs.

A first smooth downward stroke, so light, and a little of the mask is gone. The blade slows. The naked skin by candle glows. Another stroke and then one more. A third,  and once again I have an upper lip, and this now curves itself into a smile.

“we can steer, we can near …”

 Now my chin is gently raised, revealing the still white expanse of my untouched throat. I can no longer see the blade but I feel its coolness at my jugular, its slow descent, its touch again and down again, and over and over and over until I am released and I stare. The mask has been removed but for a few thin white lines that, with the eyebrows and the eyes, now set themselves into the smiling shape of what might be sin.

“… hear the power of Babylon …”

 A pool of water gathers. I bow towards cupped hands and the wet warmth washes upwards once, then twice and then a third time. Now in the mirror all traces of the mask are gone.

Wet fingers tap the candles one by one.

And still it is only 7:00. A new song has begun.

“If I lay here / If I just lay here …”

Together we peel an orange and we eat it slowly, piece by piece. We see the sun has not yet risen, but bodies (more than candles) cast their own sufficient light.

“Would you lie with me / And just forget the world?”

 It’s true, I know, that Time’s chariot has great and noisy wheels, not easily ignored and not to be forgotten. We are none of us Gods. And shaving, some would say, is only shaving.

Still, we are rulers of our own empires, poets of our own songs, and it is in our power to set aside the time to make the commonplace erotic. I would not say, “I shave, therefore I am.”  But with a smile I would agree that there are there are rituals done well only when they are done slowly.



I Want My Bunny

In which the Elegant Bastard and the Easter Bunny celebrate their Common Chocolate Cause.

I want my Bunny.

Had you asked me a week ago, I don’t think I would have cared. All I likely wanted then was a good Pinot Noir (got it), the Canadiens to beat the Bruins (got it) and a world free of both CNN and North Korea (working on it.) But my circumstances have changed since then, and now I very deeply want my Bunny.

It began – as most things do – in Starbucks. I was sipping my Americano and waiting for a friend. A table away sat three young women who paused their conversation to watch as a older couple walked by carrying an assortment of Easter candy. Prominent among their packages were chocolate rabbits carrying baskets of white chocolate eggs.  As soon as the couple were out of earshot, the sneering started.

“God, it’s – like – so stupid.. Like, rabbits don’t lay eggs.”

“I know. And I hate having this freaking religious shit forced down my throat. Like, it’s everywhere I go.”

“So commercial.  And so superstitious.”

All of this was punctuated by collective head nodding, eye rolling and tooth sucking to indicate agreement with each other’s wise words.

At that point, one reminded the others they were late for an appointment to have their hands henna tattooed. Making a few loud comments about how these decorations would ensure their soon-to-be-married girlfriend would become pregnant on her wedding night, they gathered their purchases together and walked away. I was looking around for anything I could throw at them but at that point my friend arrived and the moment passed. In fact it was only several hour later that I felt the first stirrings of this absurd need to obtain a Bunny.

My readers will instantly understand that there is no need to contact animal protection services. I was a man in search of a symbolic Bunny and yes, it would have to be chocolate. The reasons for this preference are obvious. Real Bunnies poop and want to do things with other Bunnies. I have no time to clean up the first and no desire to observe the second. As well, any real Bunny hanging around my house inevitably becomes dinner. Friends can become a tad upset when they are served what I call lapin aux fines herbes and what they refer to as Curried Thumper. Finally, I recognized that I wanted a tangible symbol, something I could touch, and my favorite touching tool has always been my mouth.

The problem was I wasn’t really sure what my Bunny was going to symbolize. For example, was it going to be an Anger Bunny? The three women had displayed an irritating degree of cultural ignorance and insensitivity, but Toronto often struggles to maintain it’s loudly declared allegiance to multiculturalism. Tensions do exist.  In fact, I sometimes wonder if it’s a combination of fear and political correctness rather than commitment that keeps things calm on our polite surfaces. However, I had heard far worse comments directed at far more targets and I had not really been affected. I tend to chalk such outbursts up to the mutterer’s sense of personal and political impotence and get on with my search for the perfect rib steak. Anger Bunny it was not

Had their words had awakened some remnant of Christianity lingering deep within my slumbering soul. Was I offended on behalf of some distant past? Like many North American kids, I had been trundled off to church and Sunday school by my dutiful parents. I had learned my catechism, joined the choir and refrained from beating up my friends during the actual services. Then, one Sunday during my thirteenth year, I had loudly declared my atheism at dinner.  My mother responded by reminding me that if I wanted dessert, I needed to eat my liver. This muted reaction, and the fact that the following Easter I got my chocolate Bunny anyway is a pretty clear indication that our house was not precisely a hotbed of religious fervor. So I don’t think what I was hearing all these many years later was some God Bunny calling me back to the fold.

Maybe I was hungry for an Intellectual Bunny! I have a passion for symbols and some are more elegant than others. This is decidedly true of two most commonly associated with Easter – the egg and the Bunny. Eggs coloured red are meant to represent the blood of the risen Christ, but there are non-religious egg interpretations as well. A green egg can mean the return of spring. A white egg can represent purity and innocence, a brown egg the earth, a blue egg hope and any egg immortality.

The Bunny, or the Hare, was thought by some ancient writers to be a hermaphrodite. This possibility of a virgin birth made the hare a perfect symbol for Mary, the mother of Christ. Many churches have circular carvings showing three rabbit heads with overlapping ears, a charming geometric representation of the trinity: Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Still, I am able to appreciate many other symbols without feeling an urge to eat chocolate. More, I realized at some deeply profound level that a chocolate egg would not answer my need. It had to be a Bunny.

One possibility I quickly eliminated was any sort of Pagan Bunny. I had once done a little research about Easter and I had very quickly came across Eastre, the old Saxon goddess of the dawn, spring and fertility for whom Easter is named. Eastre was wife of the Sun God. A full moon occurring after the spring equinox represented a pregnant Eastre about to give birth to new life. This idea encouraged noisy and apparently quite randy festivals all over the German speaking world. However, the idea of a pregnant goddess flying around overhead only encourages me to stay indoors or to invest in a really good umbrella.

I almost decided to call the object of me search Mellow Bunny. That worked in many ways. If nothing else, it affirmed my fondness for Easter, something that persists even though I have left religion behind me. Easter was always so much more relaxed that Christmas. I didn’t have to worry about sending Easter cards or getting my army of relatives Easter gifts. I didn’t need to learn Easter carols. There was no elaborate pop-up calendar countdown, no incessant demands that I be a good boy if I wanted to avoid coal in my stocking, no long vacation that had to be used “productively”. I couldn’t really screw up Easter.

But eventually the epiphany hit. It’s spring.  Spring is silliness. It’s the giddily giggily season. The days grow a little longer, the clothing burden becomes less wearisome, birdsong hasn’t yet become annoying and here and there small green shoots push themselves up into the sunshine. The sun yawns; the sky stretches; the trees stand up a little taller. It isn’t the full orgiastic explosion that comes later; it’s subtle and gentle and teasing. The air remains nippy, snow can still fall, and mud is in ambush mode but a promise has been made and so we all walk about grinning big grins, offering each other high fives and feeling like we could hop and leap and  jump over any and every obstacle in our way. That’s why it had to be a Bunny.

In a few moments I will go out to get my Spring Bunny. If I meet the three young women who started all this, I will smile. I may even offer to buy them bunnies. In fact, if I find Bunnies on sale I may purchase large numbers of them and give them to strangers in the street or even to you, Dear Reader.

However, first I must finish this. I could, I suppose, just ask if you realize that all I am saying is there are times when what’s important is understanding that we live and we love in a world turning green. However, I could end more elegantly just by offering up three brief words of advice.

Have a Bunny!








Gay Marriage, or “What’s in Your Closet, Bob?”

Part 1: In which the Elegant Bastard and Bob discuss whether Gay Marriage is Icky, Contagious or a threat to Resale Values in Iowa.

Dear America,

You and I may have already met but allow me to introduce “Bob”.

I know that his name and the obvious subject of this letter will lead a few to assume “Bob” needs no introduction. For them, the name and context would have instantly conjured up the image of a chubby, middle-aged mid-western white guy with a beer in one hand, a gun in the other, a child on either side and a wife we can’t see because she is in the kitchen. There is likely a dog, also chubby. And if this image comforts you and aligns with your planets, so be it.

However, truth be told, Bob may or may not actually be his real name.  In fact, Dear Reader, you may eventually need to become comfortable with ambiguity since Bob may or may not be chubby, may or may not be white, and may or may not drink beer, or be overweight, or love football, or live in Iowa. In fact, Bob may not even be male.

What we do know is that Bob, his children (Bob Junior and Bobette) and his wife (Bobawa)  and likely his little dog ( Rob) do not approve of Gay Marriage. Our task is to determine why this is so and then, in the true spirit of Diversity, determine whether to accept Bob’s arguments or look elsewhere for a solution.

I will admit, America, that I found Bob’s insistence on discussing this issue a little strange. After all, if Salima weds Fatima or Dick elopes with Dan, it should really only concern me if 1) I am paying for these weddings, or 2) I am God or 3) I happen to actually be Salima, Fatima, Dick and/or Dan. If none of these conditions hold, then my polite inner Canadian will no doubt whisper to me that my primary duty is to shut up and butt out. However, let’s hear what Bob has to say.

Bob has apparently decided that Gay Sex is “icky” and Gay Marriage will inevitably lead to Gay Sex. This may be true. In fact, Bob, Other People Having Sex (OPHS) generally is icky to uninvited observers. That is why OPHS tends to take place indoors, at night and behind curtains. In other words, Bob, you would have to work really really hard to actually see married Gay Sex (and that nice policeman who does the late night neighbourhood patrols might not understand why you need to) so why bother. Much easier to stay home and watch porn. Of course if next door newly-weds Larry and Barry decide to install floodlights and go at it rabbit-like on your front lawn, we will understand your objection. When this happens, let us know.

Bob now decides that arguments based on sexual aesthetics might not wash so we are moving on to concerns based on maintaining both family and property values. But here, too, there are problems. Surely family values must be set by individual families. You cannot insist that I watch “American Idol” with my children; I cannot insist that you watch “Big Bang Theory” with yours. Your spouse works; my common law partner does not. We are vegetarian; you are carnivores. Your walls are beige; mine are light green. Bob, mi casa no es tu casa.

Property values are another matter, but ever since the first reports came out suggesting that an influx of Gay couples actually boosts house prices[i], I am frankly amazed that recession-hit towns aren’t begging them to move in and start the renovations NOW! Besides, if neighbourly behavior really impacted property values, Bob, weed whackers, rap music and large reptilian pets would all have been banned decades ago.

I knew we would ultimately come to the next concern and here we are. Please won’t somebody think of the children!

Simply put, Bob wonders if the she-bop shenanigans of neighbours Beryl and Cheryl will confuse the emerging sexual identities of Bob Jr. and little Bobette. In other words, he is worried about contagious homosexuality in the same way that any parent might worry about mumps or measles. The fact that studies have shown that parental sexual preference has no impact on the choices made later by their adult children[ii] only increases his worries, especially since those very same studies remained mysteriously silent on the impact of Neighbour sexual preference! (Everybody loves a conspiracy, eh?)

Is Bob’s concern legitimate? Let us assume that adult sexual identity is contagious if it occurs between 35 and 50 feet away from impressionable children and only if the “germs” have to pass through two intervening external walls. Let us further assume that 5 % of the adult population in America is naturally gay. Finally, we will take as a given the fact that `natural` homosexuality was invented by communists at the start of the Cold War – say around 1950. We will use these assumptions to track the hypothetical growth of the feared Gay tsunami:

If, in 1950, the first subversive Gay Anti-American Sex Pair  (GASP) was infiltrated into, say, Smallville, then by 1965, the time it would take those born in 1950 to begin regular sexual activity, an additional 15 % of the population would have been infected. By 1980, GASP would grow to 45%. The takeover would be complete by 2010. As it is now 2013, Bob needs to accept that if Gay sex is communicable, not only will Bob Jr. and Bobette definitely be gay, Bob himself and Bobawa already are.

I sense we are now moving closer to the core of Bob’s concern. He believes that even if Gay behavior isn’t contagious, it is sinful and allowing Gay marriage means encouraging the growth of sin in the community. If true, this is indeed a troublesome notion and it deserves the same thoughtful consideration we have given Bob’s other arguments.

Let us begin by understanding the nature of sin. Sin occurs as the result of free choices we make. Eating, breathing and drinking are not in themselves sinful since we have no free choice in the matter. However, if we choose to fricassee our mother-in-law’s yappy poodle while inhaling cheap drugs and drinking bathtub gin, we have definitely committed several sins!

Now comes the difficult part. Bob and many of his buddies say that being Gay is a sin; ergo, it follows that people are Gay by choice. If this is so, then Bob’s argument becomes quite strong. However, we must be thorough. To determine if such actions are committed by choice, we must now ask Bob to select any one or more of his best buddies and go test this hypothesis, preferable behind the afore-mentioned closed doors and closed curtains. If neither Bob nor his closest friends are able to rise to this challenge, then we will have to assume that being Gay does not occur by choice and therefore cannot properly be call Sinful!

We’ll wait for you here, Bob.

(End of Part 1. Part 2 will be posted Wednesday)


Of Zombies and Kardashians

In which the Elegant Bastard suggests that all strange beasts must be allowed their beastly strangeness.

I have never lived in Montana, nor have I ever visited. I therefore have no idea how frequently zombies come out to play with the locals. Still, these encounters must be fairly rare given the panic that arose when a local television station calmly advised viewers that the zombie apocalypse had begun and was coming to a street near them … immediately! Fear and loathing were apparently quite widespread[1].

Torontonians, of course, would shrug at such news.  Zombie invasions are a twice-daily occurrence here. Once in the morning and again at around 5 p.m., they stream back and forth in the underground tunnels we have long provided for their use. As they do not really speak, communicating mostly via snarls, finger gestures and staring eyes, it’s hard to know what they seek.  Perhaps light, or mates, or some better source of dietary fibre, but whatever their goal, they scurry quickly away to wherever they think it might be hiding. Few brains are eaten and things return to normal fairly quickly. Imagine lemmings equipped with opposable thumbs and you’ll have the picture.

On the basis of that experience, I feel I can – with authority – suggest to Montanans that they just grin and bear it. Like other creatures – and this is true of all reputable monsters – zombies can only do what zombies do. Would you tell dragons not to fly, harpies not to snatch and gorgons not to stare? Then why tell zombies not to chase and catch and chew? They must climb out of their darkness, must stumble around in search of victims, must eat the brains of those they seize, and then return to an unquiet sleep[2]. They cannot do otherwise.  A zombie is a zombie is a zombie.

And that, Dear Reader, brings us to the Kardashians.

It was only a few days ago that someone finally told me the identity of the troubling images staring back at me from the ranks of magazine covers displayed in supermarket check-out lines. I had wondered what creatures these were. Now I know and I approach with a new kaution. Why would I not? Kardashian faces are hard. These weird sisters and their dam are so klearly a kollection of karnivores. Their pointed chins, powerful jaws and often visible teeth send subtle shivers down my spine. Karbrashian eyes, veiled behind koiled Kartrashian hair, seem both kalculating and predatory, as if weighing up my worth as a midday morsel. My forehead burns, my limbs go leaden; my legs refuse to move. Already I feel kaught and must k-k-consciously fight back against the kolonizing power of their special “K” brand. I nervously pat for my wallet; it is there.

I break away and I am soon outdoors. Here where I feel safer, I consider the mystery of Karcashian fame. Such speculation, as it always does, puts my feet on auto-pilot and I am soon in some Starbucks or other. With my Americano in one hand and my iPhone in the other, in seven Googly minutes I discover just how famous the K-clan is!

I read of weird things, impossible things, of sudden loud marriages and louder divorces, of gender-inappropriate underwear and surgical sculptings, of burgeoning boobs and of children named Dash, of Kaynes and of Kris’s, of clubs and of cash. A lot of cash. Extraordinary amounts of cash. The only thing I do not find is any reason for their fame.

The answer given most often is that the Karcrashians, like the Hiltons, are famous because they are famous. I disagree. The answer, as I suggested earlier, lies in the nature of the zombie.

The Kardashians are what they are because they cannot be anything else. Whether by genes, greed or self-love, they are driven to the bright lights, the bank rolls, the red carpet. Trailing after them – smaller and making no noise whatsoever – are the others, their fans, the gray legions who live to stand in supermarket lines and sneer, or point, or go “tut tut”, or moan “tsk tsk.” Then, clutching their glossy purchases to their breasts, they scurry home to gaze and giggle and wish.

And of these two things that are the same, I much prefer the Kardashian brand. Excessive and crass and corrupt it may be, there’s a riotous exuberance to it, a certain tawdry sensuality, a perverse and rapacious energy that animates their gluttony. At one and the same time, they are narcissistic, incestuous and orgiastic. All who approach – the Perez Hiltons, the Kris Humphries, the Kanye Wests, the Ryan Seacrests – are taken in, used, and then ignored, and this is especially true of the gray legions. Through it all, one monstrous truth becomes clear. Some zombies munch the brains of others; most eat their own.

As my spellchecker keeps telling me – in red – whenever it comes across the word Kardashian, I have two choices. I can “Ignore” or I can “Ignore all”. I choose the second and I hope that you, Dear Reader, will do the same. After all, surrounded as we are by Kardashians and gray legions, we have no more choice than the easily frightened Montanans and what’s more, we all know why.

Because a zombie is a zombie is a zombie.


[2] How then are they any different than most bloggers?

Closely Watched Bums

In which the Elegant Bastard discovers that even on a crowded bus, Life’s Lessons can be Learned!

The number of synonyms available for any particular body part varies in direct proportion to the amount of interest that particular part arouses. Butts, therefore, have acquired an enormously long list of names, especially when you compare them to the much overlooked fingers, arms and esophagi.

But not all synonyms for the gluteus maximus are equal. “Asses”, for example, get kicked. “Backsides” are smacked or simply sat upon. “Buttocks” are of interest only to medical professionals. (Come on, when did you ever hear someone wishing to get a feel of that “buttock”!)  And no one has had a “derriere” since 1982.

Bums, however, are beautiful – round and cheekily perfect globes that can fire the spirit of Columbus in us all. Let them dance and the watchful mind stops; let them rest and it’s the mind’s turn to dance. If, as the poem tells us, Cortez really did stand silent upon a peak in Darien, doubtless his eagle eyes had spotted a New World Bum close by. Robert Frost tells the world to take the “road less travelled by.” I am sure he wanted to write “Bum”.

Have you noticed, Dear Reader, the similarities between digressions and obsessions? No? Consider it.

So when two of the nation’s twenty-somethings boarded the same crowded bus as I and came to stand a short meter from where my eyes were scanning the New York Times – and then turned their backs – I immediately confronted Plato’s fundamental error. He tells us – with a certain degree of smugness – that the “Perfect Forms” exist so far away that mere imperfect human beings (like us) may never see them. Well, Plato old boy, that might be true of Perfect Truth and Perfect Beauty, but not of Perfect Bums. A pair of them, each tightly Levi’d, had arranged themselves so close to me that Diana Ross’s old lyrical commandment to “Reach out and touch somebody’s hand” was in danger of being instantly rewritten.

I did not drool. No, I tell you that I did not drool. My interest was not at all lascivious. I am simply a lover of art in public places and felt it would be almost disloyal to that cause to turn my eyes away. Besides, they were clearly Canadian Bums and I am Canadian.

So, apparently, were most of my fellow travelers, for I noticed many of them were intent on being as patriotic as was possible given the limits imposed by good manners and various unimaginative laws.

Still, one fellow did seem unmoved. Youngish, a little chubby and unhealthily pale, he sat rigidly behind me, muttering strange words, his head bowed and his hands firmly grasping a slim black rectangle. I could not say he was fondling the device for thumbs have little fondling ability. But whatever thumbs can do, his did, and they did it with the same devotion my eyes were giving my two nearby icons.

He, however, did not see them. Instead he appeared to be calling up app after app, each to be toyed with briefly and then banished, another then taking its place. And as he browsed, his legs vibrated up and down. One of his knees seemed imperfect for it clicked as it quivered. The Bums could have been on Mars for all that he would know. As if to make up for his slight, I turned my attention back to them.

Their presence was innocent. Nothing about their owners’ poses or behavior suggested that they intended to arouse interest, comment or anything else. They were simply there, a momentary gift bestowed on all of us by an exuberant Nature so very clearly pleased with herself. “Behold!” she cried to us, and we all obediently beheld, all of us but clicking boy who was checking out the time of day in world capitals.

Eventually the couple moved to the rear doors and disembarked across from a shopping mall. The traffic light was green for them – how could it not be? – and this gave us all one last chance to watch them ripple across the sun dappled avenue before our bus rumbled into motion and took us away into shaded suburban streets. As we picked up speed, I turned my attention back to the Times and its attempts to keep me informed about who was killing whom wherever.

But I caught one last glimpse of the head behind me, bent low over his black box. He had apparently located a GPS app and was now busily trying to discover where he was.

As a devotee of a political grouping called The Mushy Middle, the Elegant Bastard despairs when his own city is in the grips of any form of political extremism. Those also suffering under the rule of moronic mayors might enjoy this explanation of whose fault it really is: