I’m having a not entirely unpleasant existential crisis in the bush, participating in a circular conversation with a friend.
“But what makes me, ME?” I am truly troubled.
“Well,” he says, thinking. “The things that you do make you, you!”
“But what if I don’t do the things that I do?”
He reassures me. “I can’t do the things that you do, that would make me you!”
This conversation probably could have gone on indefinitely, or at least until we were sober, but its broken up by the arrival of a large, green moth that floats through our midst to land on the shower trailer door. It is an absurdly neon, fluffy creature, too solid to be insect, so substantial it verges upon mammalian. I didn’t remember the moth until Nico brought it up- am I the kind of person who is a reliable narrator? Do I remember the details?
A winter spent in isolation renders me in the middle of a minor existential crisis, again. This is becoming not unusual. But I’m starting to piece it back together. The things that remind people of me are useful. I receive no less than 5 messages from different people over the course of the winter to let me know they’re drinking Baby Duck. My party thing has been to buy a bottle of the frothy pink witch’s brew and pass it around a select circle until it’s gone. Pre-drink, BAM, bitches. One eventful night in Hearst, my ride back to Southern Ontario leaves me in town, having forgotten that I was supposed to drive home with him in an MDMA and cocaine fueled memory loss. To be fair, the car turned around an hour away in Kapuskasing and came back for me, but it wasn’t terribly useful, because I wasn’t in the room I had rented at the Queens. Nor was I at the Companion, where I had stolen a comforter from the staff room. I was happily ensconced in the Companion blanket in a ground floor room at the Howard Johnson across the highway, my room key for the Queens tucked deep into the recessed of my fanny pack. When, at the relatively respectable time of 8:30 a.m, I made it back to the Queens, I swaggered into the room in my dirty floral dress, a line of dried blood running down my calf from the night prior. I have been wearing the dress for three days, and underwear are a foriegn concept.”Where have you BEEN!?” my companions exclaimed. I picked up my half empty bottle of Baby Duck from the radiator and proceeded to swill it down, washing away the alkaline throat taste and dregs of whiskey. Earlier in the night, pre bar, pre hotel jumping, pre adventuring, I had poured it into large McDonald’s cups for us to enjoy in the hotel hot tub and sauna. Did you know you get drunk quicker in a sauna…
Others send me messages about roadkill and dead animals. “I saw a dead baby kitten the other day! I thought of you!” This is not as morbid as it sounds, or, perhaps it is. I have a weird fascination with taxidermy, beginning with mice that I gutted, tanned and arranged into small (mostly Shakespearean) tableau’s, graduating to wondering if it was ‘too weird’ for me to stop on the side of my 5km run home from the horse farm and collect the fresh carcass of an opossum into my bag. I eventually decided to delay the collection until the next day, as I had no garbage bag on hand and didn’t wish to soil my backpack, but by the time I returned, the creature had been further flattened by passing traffic and bore an unpleasant scent, as well as a collection of flies and imminent maggots. I want to taxidermy my dog into an end table when he dies, with a convenient spot for a fancy glass of gin (or, perhaps, Baby Duck.) I may not be at the point that I can pull of such a feat when he passes, though, so if you know any wonderful pet taxidermists, please let me know.
I am forever tagged in posts about bad mushrooms trips, bad acid trips and excessive partying. From whence does this trend come? My first season of plant I was drifting so hard and in this weird limbo of existence. I lived, I breathed, I worked, but I was not a person. Upon being interviewed for treeplanting, a job widely regarded as one of the hardest in the world, I hesitated. I could continue comfortably, numbly existing within this purgatory, or I could bust back out and continue on this trajectory I had set early on in my life, of extra-ordinariness and asceticism and general extremism. When I spent ten hours a day walking through the forest, physically exerting myself in a way I didn’t know was possible, I came forth like a butterfly from a cocoon, selling my dirty panties on the internet and dating white boy rappers, peeing over the edge of my balcony on first gin-drunk dates and climbing bridges and playing the piano along to Buster Keaton films while straight fucked up on MDMA. “LOOK, LOOK!” we scream, pounding out chords. “In the 1940’s,” I say, fingering out a light blues scale, “They had live pianists in theaters who played along to the silent films.” This is straight up Bex. This is party Bex. This is PEAK Bex, and still, I’m screaming about Lord Byron and reading Rilke in my tent coming down off of three tabs of acid, thinking I might, just maybe, be able to learn German.
Another yet sends me a link to a CBC article about the “Sour toe Cocktail”, a Dawson City Phenomenon in which one downs a shot of whiskey that contains a preserved, frostbitten toe. I’ll play the role of the hipster here and say, “I’ve wanted to do that since before it was cool!” but anybody who knows me will attest that it is true, hence the glut of links and tags over the past few years as the severed digit shot receives more media attention. As my year shapes up before me, emerging from the darkness and stolidity of winter, the plan unravels. “Northern Ontario,” I say, “from May to July.” Then we will roadtrip to British Columbia, to the fertile and rich Okanagan for the relative vacation of cherry picking, littered with afternoons off at Kalamalka and in mountain streams, in valley towns and Lake Country beachsides, where maybe, just maybe, one of the transient vagabonds you’ve met over the seasons might appear on the sand, to blend in seamlessly with the group you’ve accumulated around you.
I’m still establishing a value system for myself, a code to live by that establishes everything from how I treat my friends to the kind of salt I buy. Its an on-going process, and this, too, will be incorporated into the bit of performance art I like to think of Bex as. The summer lies before me, rich with opportunity- what mythos can I create, what status can I achieve? Can I piss out the window of a moving school bus, can I buy a potted plant while on acid at a Northern Ontario garage sale and make all around me worship it as another living being? Can I summarize my adventures into a cohesive manuscript and submit to a celebrity chef with a publishing line? “The Treeplant Cookbook- “Nobody Wants to eat Hotdogs on Acid.”
This is who I am.
Who am I?