Author Archives: mark

COVID Update for the Curious

It’s kind of a weird time. I was a server before all this started, so I lost my job fairly early on in the global pandemic. I drove down to Seattle on March 9th for the Strokes concert, driving back that night, and got a bit of a cold a few days later. Apparently Seattle got hit bad, but I didn’t really know that at the time. None of us really knew what was coming, I guess. I’m psyched I got to see the Strokes twice in one week though. PLUS they played One Way Trigger and Evening Sun in Seattle, but not in Vancouver and those are BANGERS.

A few days later, a Thursday, my boss and I decided that it wasn’t worth the risk and I should take a few days off. I phoned the health line the next day and they told me to self-quarantine for the next two weeks. When that was done, the world was quite a bit different, and instead of waiting tables, my colleagues that had stayed on were mostly answering phones and boxing takeout. And trying very hard to stay apart in a very small restaurant with a very very small kitchen.

Today, a lot of people in my position have found ourselves with the incredible good fortune of being able to stay at home collecting $2,000 a month in order to keep the more vulnerable parts of society safe. I have to remind myself every day that this is a gigantic privilege, and though I’m fairly introverted and thrive when all I have to do is read books and write nonsense, a lot of people aren’t anywhere near as fortunate. Beyond the effects of the actual virus, people are killing themselves, people in abusive relationships are finding that they now have no escape and are confined 24/7 with their abusers, people who don’t qualify for CERB or EI and have lost their jobs have really limited options, and people who were already in precarious situations, like living in the street, can’t really shelter-in-place and are having a really hard time navigating this.

All the while, front-line health workers are dealing with the brunt of this every day. They don’t get to sit at home earning $2,000 a month. Neither do grocery store workers, restaurant cooks, and tons of other people that work in jobs that are incredibly essential but are not well-paid. This virus has effected us all differently, along lines of race, class, and gender, and once the world gets a handle on it, we desperately need to revisit the ways we’ve structured our institutions, and the ways we treat each other. “The old way wasn’t working, so it’s on us to do what we gotta do.” I think that’s a Tupac lyric.

With the privilege-acknowledgement out of the way, overall these last couple months have had a fairly positive effect on me. I’ve had the chance to really think about what I want to do, what’s important to me, and who’s important to me. I’m exercising a lot and feeling really fit, despite the ever-present bulging gut, and I’m writing again. I really like writing. I missed it.

When I lived in Australia a few years back I’d kind of sequestered myself at my grandma’s house (RIP Jean), a roughly 10 minute drive from Yarrawonga, a town of about 6,000 year-round residents that sits about three hours north of Melbourne. I’d read Stephen King’s On Writing and decided to follow his advice and write 2,000 words a day. I churned out two decently-thick science fiction manuscripts that I have not looked at since. (I tried, a couple years ago, to edit one down into something reasonable, but realized that I used the cliche, “the more things chance the more they stay the same,” three times in the first 10 pages or so. I was very discouraged and I shredded it. Haven’t really looked at either since.

Maybe I’ll revisit them again one day. I still have the .docs. But lately I’ve had the chance to dive back into this love that I’ve always had for stories. I’m reading so much, and writing little short stories that I’m really hoping other people might actually like.

Anyway, I just wanted to stretch my blogging muscles a little bit. I’ve clearly got the time. Take care of yourselves, take care of your families, think about what’s really important, don’t stress about ordering sushi 3/4 times a week, it’s a crazy time so do what you need to do.

Lots of love,


A heinous disease
Makes her write in the fall
When December comes knocking
There are no words at all

Sixteen decaf coffees a day
And a call to the chiropractor
fix me please

Walking to the farmer’s market


Wished it would
Whip me up and
Whisk me away.

It was the wind
is what I’m talking

Because it felt as if
It would,
Drag me serenely
not kicking
or screaming
somewhere else

I felt it flow
Over me
And when I closed my eyes I
Waited until it would.

it never did.

Written in May 2017, never posted until now. 

Life After Lunch

Reposted from Drafts on October 30, 2019

Today I got the opportunity to root through a dead guy’s apartment. It’s a surreal experience. A somewhat estranged relative of my father’s passed away a couple weeks ago. Today, with his brother and sister-in-law, my cousin and my dad, I went through his Surrey townhouse.

The last time I saw ‘Cousin John’ was probably ten years ago. Even then, years before his heart attack in a cinema parking lot, conversations about him took on a past-tense tone. He was labelled as an odd man to my siblings and I, and we never did a good enough job of staying in touch.

After seeing his place, I regret not taking more time to talk to the man. He had bookshelves filled with science fiction books that I’d love to read. John’s interests were varied–he had military books, shelves dedicated to aircraft, and it seems like he had a growing interest in submarines right before the end. The shelves also held textbooks on chemistry and biology, as well as books on alien encounters and TWO copies of Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. 

EDIT (30-10-19): I took one of the copies and have not opened it yet.

Though he was a fairly messy person (according to dad he always was, they had lived together for a couple years way back) I’ve been told that he was always very clever, maybe spending too much time on the more important questions of the day to have a chance to tidy up. I’m sure it’s partly because he was family, but I started to notice similarities between us as I walked through the rooms. He had two typewriters. I don’t know if he used them or just had them around.

I could’ve done a better job connecting with him, because after all I don’t know why he was so estranged from the rest of us. I mean, we’re a weird family anyway and he was just across the bridge in Surrey.

Anyway, family is too easy to take for granted.

Who’s Actually Reading

Reposted from Drafts on October 30, 2019

Your memories on Facebook

Mark, we care about you and the memories that you share here. We thought you’d like to look back on this profile photo from 2 years ago.

I saw one of those this morning. What a load of BS. These kind of messages really drive me crazy because of the ridiculous tone. ‘We care about you.’ Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? I think I’m going to deactivate it again.

Honestly, when I saw it today my first thought was, you don’t know a thing about me, but Facebook arguably knows more about me than anyone else. The disgusting amount of information they have on us, from what we give them willingly, to what they gather as they follow us across the internet, is terrifying. Even for people who’ve never had an account, the company has a wealth of knowledge about you.

It’s wild. A company started by a guy in college (I haven’t seen the movie, so I’m a little fuzzy on the details. I also don’t know how accurate the movie is) is now one of the most powerful businesses in the world. And I hope he has a good team, because they have so much power.

If we feel like the power fossil fuel companies have today is bad, what is the landscape going to be like in the future when it’s Google, Apple, Facebook, and whoever else buying all the politicians? They know everything about us.

EDIT (30-10-19): I forgot Amazon.

I was thinking about this the other day. As companies and governments have more and more information about us, what is that world going to look like? How will authoritarian regimes use that power to crush dissent? During the Harper-era of Canadian politics CSIS and the RCMP watched environmentalists and Indigenous communities who were (and remain) opposed to projects like pipelines and destructive resource-extraction. They probably still do.

Below the surface, behind the scenes, on the net, control over people is changing in a huge way. It doesn’t help that in Canada we keep electing people who don’t understand the ramifications, or don’t care–a problem that is a million times worse in the States, and arguably causes more problems to us here and to our friends across the globe, than domestic policies do.

And the weirdest part of all of it to me is that it’s impossible to know what these companies know about us. Governments in Europe are trying to crack down on these things, like with the ‘Right to be Forgotten’ but at the end of the day companies break laws and keep doing more intrusive things every day.

Anyway, I’m not the person to be talking about online privacy. There’s a wealth of information online if you’re curious about it, but if there’s a small take away from this blog, it’s just to think about it. Ugh. We care about you.

(Because this is just a blog post I’m not going to source anything, so take what I say as you will, but if you look up these issues you’ll find a lot written on them). 

EDIT (30-10-19): If I bring this blog back online (which I’d like to do), this policy of not sourcing because it’s a blogpost will be discontinued. I think it’s a little irresponsible these days not to at least hyperlink to the people who did the work that I’m building on.


Reposted from Drafts on October 30, 2019

I’ve hit up a bunch of different bookstores in the last couple days because I’m desperate for some good fiction, but whenever anyone offers to help me I keep saying, ‘I’m just looking.’

Because if I was honest I’d say I want a book about change. I want to read a book that will make me want to quit my job and go to Europe, and be excited about it. I want a book that takes all the fear and nervous energy and restlessness I’ve felt lately and reassures me that it’s normal, okay, and even good to see where one simple and kind of reckless impulse takes me.

I’d like to read a book about someone who isn’t certain of anything beyond the fact that they’re uncertain. And confused. And then I’d like to live it, and have almost everything go right, but enough things go wrong to keep it interesting.

Maybe a book that reads like Hemingway but is set in a contemporary world, with contemporary issues and characters that feel alive today. People that I’d imagine passing on the street.

I probably should’ve just asked, because after visiting three bookstores yesterday I came home empty-handed. I have a few books I’m in the middle of that I keep revisiting and then reshelving. I don’t know why nothing is holding my interest.

Today I went to Indigo while I waited for an oil change and I bought Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, a classic–and from what I’ve heard a book perhaps more relevant today than ever. I’ll get to it once I’m finished The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway, which is pretty good. I’ve found that I can read any of his books pretty easily, but I guess that’s the reason why he’s so well known. I hope him and Margaret clear up this reader’s drought I’m living.

EDIT (30-10-19): Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines ended up being the book I was looking for. He’s better known for In Patagonia which I didn’t like as much and have not finished.

And not to mention the writer’s block. I’m all plugged up! It’s like flu season in my brain. I’ll average about 500 words of nonsense a day (beyond the nonsense here on the blog) and reading it back is just depressing. I should set up a proper counter and then once I’d written all the bad stuff down and had nothing left but the gold, I could say THIS IS HOW MANY WORDS IT TOOK TO GET TO SOMETHING READABLE: _____. I’m not there yet, but we must be well into the 200,000’s now. Closing in on the 300k’s, I bet.

I figure, at least I’m pretty good grammatically and spelling-wise. Maybe good, not great, and usually I can write with a pretty strong flow. My stories are just terrible. Depressingly terrible. And I keep thinking, how am I ever going to be a rich and widely read novelist if I can’t write a good story at 24! Not even a decent short story, let alone a novel.

Now, I think if I was giving myself advice it would be: keep writing. Don’t stop. And one day, fingers crossed, something will come out of my brain and hands that’s worth buying. Or at least worth stealing from the internet.

Forget Thursday

Reposted from Drafts on October 30, 2019

I think it’s time to go.

It just feels that way. Time for a change.

I should grow a moustache again, start wearing really tight striped t-shirts and pants that don’t go all the way to my shoes and hitchhike through Eastern Europe.

Or maybe I’ll just dye my hair and get some tattoos. And face piercings.

I’d really like to go to Tallinn, in Estonia. Check out the pictures online, because the city looks so beautiful. I think I’d do a little tour starting there and then go to Riga, and then maybe I’d jump to Prague. I don’t know how practical that would be. Next I could pass through Vienna on the way to Budapest, then stop briefly in Zurich on the way to France. Then I think I’d hang out in the south of France until I ran out of money and had to come home. Maybe try to see a bit of Spain as well?

I think it would be nice, but I just worry about who would take care of my kombucha.

EDIT (30-10-19): I ended up doing a version of this. (It’s really too bad that I let the blog slip for so long). And it turns out no one took care of my kombucha.

It’s a beautiful day outside and I’m trying to figure out how to properly seize it. I’d like to get some sun-time, but my shoulders are a little burnt from getting some sun-time on Tuesday. I’m a fool, I get sunburnt every year because I don’t think. I even put on sunscreen this time, just only on my face and neck. I guess by next summer I should have it figured out.

Really, it’s crazy important to be careful with the sun. When I was a teenager I spent a summer working for a non-profit that worked to raise awareness of skin cancer and support those going through treatment and survivors. We’d do things like give out sunscreen at summer events. It’s wild how many people don’t think about it.

I’m a pretty light skinned guy, so it’s always on my mind, it’s just that I’m also an idiot so I often brush it off, like I did the other day, and now my shoulders are crazy itchy. I’m trying not to think about it but it’s clearly not working.

I think I’ll probably do the same thing I do almost every day, go downtown to drink coffee, eat a muffin, and either read or write or maybe both. I’ve found that lately I’m having a really hard time getting engaged into fiction. I’ve been reading the New Yorker (12 issues for $12 promotion!), and a lot of non-fiction books, but I can’t get into any novels that I pick up. I guess I just haven’t found the right one.

(Book recommendations can be sent to

The last book I read (fiction category) was a Romanian novel. It was fairly short, called The Vain Art of the Fugue. The author is Dumitru Tsepeneag. I liked it, though it was hard to follow. The story was about a man meeting a woman, but told from several different perspectives in what feels like several different universes, the narrative completely unravelling by the end. It’s worth a read.

Enter Text Here

Reposted from Drafts on October 30, 2019

To answer your question, yes, I am still bogged down in thought about the ‘law of attraction.’ It’s been around a week since I started thinking about it again, and though my Lamborghini still has not arrived (and neither have my mysterious cheques) just the inherent absurdity of the law is helping me stay positive. And because it’s hardly a bad thing to have a positive outlook, I’m digging it.

What do I want to talk about?

It’s been around eight months since I’ve had a drink–the longest I’ve gone since I first tried it (though that’s been true for a while now). My goal back then was to go for a whole year (and a little bit), I figured I’d reevaluate when I turn 25 in October. At this point I’m really not sure what I’ll do. I might never drink again.

Quitting, and accepting the reality of why I had to quit were really different things. Not drinking was easy at first, but telling people why and then being accountable to them was completely different. The big question I kept coming back to was, what is wrong with me? Why me, right? I figured I wasn’t normal, because normal people can drink responsibly, can stop before they get sick or their brain turns itself off, or at the very least they realize that frequent black outs are a problem.

I mean, quitting wasn’t easy either, I should make that clear. It took me five or six tries in 2016 for it to stick. I did two separate sober-months and then tried to quit a bunch of times over the summer without much luck.

There’s an aspect of self-medicating to it, and then the medication becomes its own problem because it isn’t a cure for what’s hurting. I think that’s a hard part of kicking any habit–especially booze. Once drinking becomes its own recognizable problem, its easy to think that once you beat that everything will be perfect, but the other issues never left. And now that you’ve stopped treating them they’re back and you have to sort them out in a healthier way which is hard. I wasn’t really equipped.

But I’ve always been like this, I was never a responsible drinker. I wonder if in the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Robert Louis Stevenson) the serum Jekyll drank was some sort of allusion to alcohol. The story always resonated with me because of Jekyll’s inability to resist the potion he created, knowing that it would transform him into a monster. I felt like that often, but I always lost control so quickly. It was something I thought I’d be able to manage despite the fact that I rarely could.

I don’t know if I’ll ever drink again. I might. I kind of hope one day I can, and it’s just normal, and I have beers once in a while, and rarely get drunk but sometimes it just happens but it’s always a fun story and never an issue. That’s the dream, but it might not be realistic. There might be something wired wrong in me. It’s possible that the contractor taking care of the addiction areas of my brain cut corners and there’s no chance for repair.

But that could be a good thing.

Texting While Biking

Reposted from Drafts on October 30, 2019

So I don’t know how much weight to give it, but I’ve been watching videos about celebrities and the law of attraction, or positive thinking, also-known-as the secret. I don’t know if it’s all BS or if there’s actually merit in the idea that we attract what we think about, and so if we’re positive we attract positivity, and if we’re down or depressed we bring more negative energy into our lives. This week I’m trying to live more positively to see if it works.

It’s kind of a bad deal for people dealing with depression or other mental health issues though, because you can’t just turn them off and be positive. I know this from personal experience, because I was once someone who often used to suggest that unhappy people just be happy. I was ignorant, and kind of a huge dickhead.

But there must be something to it. The ‘Law of Attraction’ which is a ‘Law of the Universe’ suggests that what we focus on we can bring into our life. If you’ve read The Secret, you know that the author suggests having visualization walls, and that simply by the power of thought you can attract things into your life. It’s interesting to think about when you consider some of life’s coincidences. (I’m not a fan of The Secret).

It reminds me of the trip I took to North Korea this year. Back in 2016, right around the time I was planning my trip this year (February), I was looking into tours to the country. I gave up on it pretty quickly, but at the back of my mind I knew I’d visit there eventually, and then almost by accident I found the hockey trip I ended up on. It’s a small coincidence, but it’s interesting to me.

Coincidences are really interesting, like when you think of someone you haven’t heard from in a long time and they call or message out of the blue.

I remember, from a few months ago, I had this dream about someone I’d never actually spoken to, but had gone to highschool with. She was a year or two older than I am, and I don’t think we had a single mutual friend. I can’t remember anything about the dream besides the fact that her likeness was in it. Anyway, I wake up the next day, get on with life, but I stopped at a coffee shop on the way to work that I rarely go to, and this chick is a barista there!

It was weird. There was another coincidence too, I think she became friends with one of my friends on Facebook that week and you know how that appears sometimes in the news feed? ‘This Person and That Person have Become Friends.’ And you can ‘Like it’ or ‘Comment’.

I saw it and I wanted to go back to the cafe and explain how hilarious and random it was, but I figured there was no world where that was an appropriate conversation and forgot about it until now.

I mean, it’s weird, right?

Untitled Blog Post

Reposted from Drafts on October 30, 2019

I’m starting to realize that I’m not a very good minimalist. I really want to be, but I have a lot of junk that I don’t want to get rid of. Like the polaroid camera and the typewriter that I got off of Craigslist. Or the old steel wheel from my bike, or all the notebooks I’ve collected over the years, mostly half empty and going back as far as my first semester at BCIT.

And I have so many books. I’m a serial-book-buyer. I love having them, and though I read a lot of them, there are stacks of books in the ‘to-be-read’ pile and maybe even more in the ‘started-but-never-finished’ pile. I have an especially serious issue buying books on philosophy, starting them, not understanding anything, and putting them away ‘to be finished later’ which so far generally means never.

But lately I’ve found that I’m not interested in anything. I haven’t found a good story in ages and I’m reading too much non-fiction. I think it’s making me crazy. All the stories I’m getting are from Netflix and that can’t be good. There are theories out there about television being a sort of anti-creativity, sucking the creative forces out of people and though I don’t know how accurate that is, it could help explain my writer’s block.

I went to visit my favourite bookstore this afternoon, Paperhound, which is downtown on Pender. They always have a little cart outside with one or two-dollar books and today I snagged a Kapuscinski. I couldn’t believe it, he’s probably my favourite writer–a (dead) Polish journalist who travelled all over the world reporting during the Cold War. I first got into him through The Shadow of the Sun and Shah of Shahs which are both great books, one about the last Shah of Iran and the other about his travels in Africa throughout his life.

I’ve picked up a lot of books off discount carts, and honestly, I’ve hardly finished a single one. But I’ll keep looking through them because once in a while you find a freaking Kapuscinski! What a great day.

One day I’d love to run a bookstore. Or maybe a little cafe. It’d be tiny, and I’d have all these great regulars who would come in, and sometimes we’d get a tourist who wouldn’t instinctively understand how we do things at the cafe and I’d just be really sassy towards him. We’d have a mix of online reviews, mostly positive, but a few would be really negative.

‘The old guy who made my coffee was such an asshole. I don’t know how he got the job. He made fun of my drink order to another customer, wouldn’t change the music when I asked (and it was awful, just a loop that sounded really freaky, like some really spooky shit, I’m not joking), scoffed when I gave him tips about how to make the perfect latte (you have to be able to take a critique in this business) and just gave me a ton of attitude. Would not recommend.’

‘What a dick! I went into Mark’s Cafe today and I can’t believe the way I was treated. First thing he does when I walk in is laugh in my face. He said, ‘Grown men don’t wear shorts.’ Okay buddy, it’s like thirty degrees out and I’ll wear whatever I want. Then he made fun of my shirt. When I asked for an iced coffee he sighed and took forever to get up off his stool. I paid with a credit card and when he pulled out the receipt he said, ‘What, no tip?’ No, I’m not tipping you for terrible service.

The ice coffee was really good though. Maybe one of the best I’ve ever had.’

That’s the dream.