Thursday, 20 March 2014



"A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots."

"Cockroaches," Marty Goldman muttered, taking the first sip of his double-double coffee. The familiar flavour cheered him up slightly as he lit up his joint. The park along Vine Avenue, a few streets down from Marty's new place, looked decent, a slightly big space to hang out. Behind him on the bench was the familiar metallic brown barrier that ran alongside the south part of the railway. On the north side of the train tracks were the Stockyard stores that were built less than a decade before. Just north of them was St. Clair Avenue. Marty wasn't too familiar with that part of town, had only walked or biked through it a few times. The railroad cut it off from the Junction. The characters of both places were fundamentally different.

As the joint and coffee simultaneously reached their halfway points, Marty noticed some people entering the park, a woman and two little kids. He put the joint out. He always thought it was rude to smoke when kids were around, even if they mistook the smell for a literal skunk, it was always awkward for their parents.

Marty put the joint in his pocket. He had had enough for now. The coffee high was starting to hit him too. He felt pretty good. Despite the news of his multiple insectoid room-mates, he had a lot to be thankful for.

"Finally away from there," he said in his mind as he made his way down to the next street. It was a quiet residential area, home largely to families and middle-aged people from what he had seen so far. Two new neighbours had already smiled at him when he had been making his way to the park originally. The place seemed friendly. "Not like back home where they look at you funny for even nodding to them."

Only a few neighbours ever said "hi" to Marty back then, only a select few that the family knew. These people were friendly but Marty didn't particularly like them, not because they were ever rude or disrepectful, but more because Marty found that he had nothing to say to them. When he was a child they were the adults, and by default they were smarter than him. As he grew to adulthood himself he gradually stopped seeing them this way. Once he went to University and started expanding his knowledge he started realizing how little these older people actually knew about the world. Aside from his father he had very few people he could have a discussion with on topics that required some amount of critical thought. It was in this environment that Marty had started smoking weed. He knew people at University and some other local people in his neighbourhood who did it a lot. In high school, even though he grew up in the general Jane and Finch area where weed was plentiful, he never got into it. It was only later in his college years. Being active in student activism and local politics had taken a lot out of him. He felt immense stress from the various battles and struggles he had taken part in. Readily available was the herb that calmed him down, made him think clearer at times, and helped him deal with the daily isolation that he had encountered after graduation. He needed out, he needed somewhere else, but the free food and bed in his dad's house made things too easy.

On the way back to his house Marty took in the unfamiliar sights around him. He wandered through a back alleyway that was wide enough to fit one car at a time. A bunch of the houses had their garages in the back near their yards facing these back alleys. Grafitti, both crude and beautiful, graced the walls of the backs and sides of buildings and garages. A bunch of signs and signatures that Marty didn't recognize ran from one end of this alley to the other. Morning Glory climbing vines ran through some of the fences, their vines twisting around everything they could grab at, and their flowers of white, pink, purple and blue blooming in the daylight. At Marty's street he turned a corner from the old synagouge, admiring the Star of David that was set at the top like how crosses are usually on church steeples. In front of one house was a Canadian flag, a Scottish one on another; a Maltese one, a Polish one, a Ukranian one, and on one house was a painting on the door that resembled something aboriginal.

"Individuality," thought Marty, sighing in contentment. "No, here there is no crime, no by-law, against those who express themselves."
When Marty arrived back in the house, this time noticing that the door at the top of the small stairs, the door to the kitchen area had no knob on it, just an empty hole where the knob should be.  Through that hole he saw his new room-mate, Richard, sitting at the table.

Richard nodded at him as he came in.

"Hey," Marty replied, raising his coffee cup. "I found Tim's."

"Ah, good work!"

Marty went into his room and started unpacking. He only had a few clothes. He was going to go back to his dad's and get more stuff in the following week. His closet was filled up with the few items he had brought in only a few minutes. Marty put on some music on youtube to help him out. The whole time he was frantically turning about to look for cockroaches. Every now and then he thought he saw something from the corner of his sight, but whenever he turned it was gone, either had run off or had never been there to start with.
The last thing Marty unpacked from his hiker's backpack was his work uniform, a black security uniform, a sort of mock tuxedo with a clip-on tie. He hated working at that condo on Bay Street, but now more than ever he had to keep the job. It had been only two months since he first got the job, lucky enough to be hired by the building itself. Currently he worked four nights (overnights) a week and then had three days off. The first day off was spent trying to re-orient his sleeping schedule by staying awake for half the day and then sleeping until the next morning. This was usually his own free time where he would work on his writing.
Marty had been working on a novel. It had started out as a single short story of less than twenty pages, but Marty's imagination was on a role, and the short story was tacked on as the introduction to a grand epic about a modern North America that had never been colonized by Europeans, a sort of alternate history. His story was called Windigos and told the tale of native Indians (never called Indians though since Columbus never came along to make that misidentification) who had kept their land and transformed into new kinds of societies.  Marty had a lot of creative leeway. The narrative switched multiple times between various characters, men and woman (but mostly men since Marty always had a hard time writing female characters), over thousands of miles of distance, from the advanced oligarchs of the Pacific Coast, to the Five Nations Empire in the Eastern woodlands, and the refugee people from the Southwest, the Hopi, who flee from an unknown power in the South (will be revealed to be the Aztec in one of the later chapters).
"Being here will give me the time and space to finish this book," Marty thought to himself as he looked up from his desk.
Someone messaged him online.
Jimmy: Yo marty, want to come over and have some beers and bong?

"Shit," he said, checking the time on the computer. It was already almost six.
Marty: Kind of late? I was out, went to the bank, then went for a walk.
Jimmy: So? We can order a pizza or something.
Marty: hmmmm...no, I don't think so. I just moved into the new place. Pretty tired right now. Maybe this coming Tuesday?
Jimmy: Ah right, you moved. Forgot. Why didn't you call me? I could've helped.
Marty: There was one bag. I'm going back to get more at my dad's in a week. I am going to buy some new stuff soon.
Jimmy: K.
Marty: Just found out...I have cockroaches.

There was a pause before Jimmy replied.
Jimmy: Ah shit. You know what helps with that?
Marty: An exterminator? I don't have money for that right now.
Jimmy: Vinegar, mop with vinegar and wipe your tabletops with it. Do it once a week. We did it all the time when I was a kid. Also, catnip is good for keeping them away.
Marty: Ah, alright. I'm going shopping soon. Thanks!
Jimmy: No prob. I gotta jet, ttyl.
Marty: Later.
Marty sighed. It was going to be much harder to hang out with Jimmy. Friendships were always hard to keep the further the distance. This was especially true for Jimmy since he was more a friend of convenience to Marty than anything else. It wasn't that Marty didn't like Jimmy, just that they only ended up being friends because they were practically neighbours and they both liked to drink, smoke weed, and watch old movies. Jimmy and Marty only started hanging out regularly since less than two years earlier.
"And how often am I going to be even be up there?" he asked himself, sighing again. A thought came to mind that nearly instantly made him feel better. "He can come down here."
"Yeah, what are you thinking? You have your own place to chill now."

Some tiny little brown thing by his laptop's keyboard tore him out of his good feelings. When Marty moved his hand to the right it scurried away.

"Yuck!" he cried, jumping up from his chair. "Fucking nasty!"

Without thinking he snatched his jacket off from the back of the chair and ran out of the room, slamming the door behind him. He paused for a second, catching his breath and looking around to the sink. It too looked nasty. There was a pot of brown water in the left sink basin and blank gunk was all over the right sink's drain.
Marty locked the door to his room and opened the fridge. His stomach, despite what he had just seen, was rumbling like a bag pipe. Marty saw an empty ziplock bag in a crisper at the bottom, a packet of ketchup on one of the side ledges, and a tiny brown speck at the uppermost floor. Marty zoomed his eyes in on the speck.
"Ah!" he yelled, shoving the door shut. "Fucking disgusting!"
The image of the middle-aged British guy flashed in his mind. "Cockroaches," he said over and over. "This place is disgusting! This is like living in a warehouse!" He had to go outside and buy something for dinner.
All the way down the road he was thinking about how he would keep the cockroaches away from his food. There was no way he was going to put a pest killer chemical anywhere near his food. Vinegar and catnip were most likely going to have to do, although Marty wasn't so sure he could douse his food in vinegar to keep it in the fridge.
As he turned onto Dundas Street West he came across a store with jugs, tupperware and other random storage things in it's front window. Next to it was an antique store with old furniture and appliances crammed in the front. From what Marty had read about the Junction, the area was known for it's odd little stores, particularly in the realm of antiques. The place was both practical and charactered. He kept moving along until he reached a street heading south and followed it until he reached a big grocery store, the only large store he had seen yet.
Inside it was bright and cool. Marty went through the fruit and veggie sections first, grabbing baby carrots, red delicious apples, some brocolli and some peppers. He wanted to start eating healthier now that he was always buying his own food. Next he got some cereal and some organic milk. He also got some soap, shampoo, laundry detergent and some floor cleaner. Of course he also got vinegar and catnip. The total was less than forty dollars. He had about five bills ($500) in his bank account at the present, but the coming paycheque next Friday would be an estimated seven bills. Budgeting was going to be hard and he knew it would prove to be the first major challenge to overcome.
"Okay, so I got the thousand dollars from Dad deposited and pulled out of the bank already, just have to give that to Ivan tonight, then I got to watch my money from now on."

On the way back, carrying two plastic bags, Marty noticed a grafitti sign on one of the back alley walls. It read: Decolonize.
"When would you ever see such a thing in North York?" he asked himself as he turned back onto his street. He wasn't thinking of the roaches anymore. He felt happier having both food and the good feeling of living in such a vibrant place. 
Before he got home he came by the variety store with the plastic jugs and tupperware. He looked down to his groceries. Minutes later he came out of the store, carrying a container and two tiny plastic cups. He put his food inside it once he was standing in the kichen. With the tiny cups he filled with captnip, placed one in the fridge, and another on the floor near his room's door. Bachelor life was on it's way.

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