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Pickle Me This

May 11, 2017

Did you ever know that you’re my hero?

A thing that happened to me yesterday when I was working on the second draft of my new novel was that I realized I’d totally stolen a plot point from the 1988 Bette Midler vehicle, Beaches. Not so shocking, I guess, considering I am writing a story about two women’s friendship over decades. It’s the part where C.C. Bloom ends up with her theatre director, who’d previously slept with her best friend, and you’ve got to wonder if they’re together not just C.C. wants to be but because she wants to one-up her friend. Of course, my story is a bit different from this, I assured myself, but then I realized that it even takes place around a theatrical production—albeit one that is a very very terrible campus drama society play.

I should have known this would happen. It is possible that Beaches has been seared onto my DNA. That film was my introduction to all the best things—boardwalks, photo-booths, pen-pals, and Mayim Bialik. We had the record, and I spent hours gazing at the cover, the framed pictures on the piano documenting Hilary and C.C.’s history. I was obsessed with Beaches. I think I saw it in the theatre, and then we had the video. I can recite whole passages—”You did everything you said you were going to do, everything” and “That’s my robe,” and I actually do periodically utter C.C.’s line from when she asks the bartender to carry in Hilary’s bag and her tells her, “I’ve got a bad back.” She said, “You’ve got a bad attitude.” Exactly.

The New York apartment with a bathtub in the kitchen, into which Hillary moves while on the run from her upper-class destiny, where they string Christmas lights and sing, “Oh Come All Ye Faithful”—in Latin! Basically it stands for everything I ever wanted. I wanted to pound on a radiator while screaming, “Send up the heat!” Such romantic, bohemian deprivation. Remember when Hilary drove a Volkswagen bus and worked for the ACLU, and Hilary’s tousled up-do in the laundromat with C.C. asking her, “Do you really think I have talent?” I wouldn’t recall this scene at all, except I just watched the movie trailer and realized I’d spent my 20s quoting that line, not realizing I wasn’t its original author. I’m sure I’ve also had days where I’ve gone to buy a wrench because we didn’t have one. It is possible that Beaches is in fact my subconscious. I wanted that once-in-a-lifetime friendship that lasts forever, for sure—or at least until someone ends up with a terminal heart condition. (It is also possible that this film was the advent of my hypochondria.)

I loved that movie so much, and had a mass market paperback of the book on which it was based, in which Hilary Whitney  was called Bertie Barron, but still died at the end. I think I even read the sequel, Beaches II: I’ll Be There, although I’ve forgotten everything its plot contained. Interestingly (or not, all things considered) I am quite sure that Hilary Whitney’s family home in the movie is the same house at which Roger Sterling hosts his offensive blackface party and sings, “That Old Kentucky Home,” in Mad Men—when you watch a movie 3000 you come to recognize these things. Beaches is also the reason I developed a moderate crush on John Heard, and why when John Hurt died not too long ago, I wasn’t all that bothered, because at least John Heard was okay.

I am afraid to re-watch it. Not just because I have a feeling I might discover that it doesn’t hold up—the acting in the film trailer was kind of…awful—but because I might discover that everything I have I have possibly stolen from Beaches, that in fact I do not exist at all as a singular entity but instead as an amalgam of lines and ideas from late 1980s’ films in which beautiful young women die tragically (and gorgeously). What if all of us are just walking around in Gary Marshall’s dream—or even fragments of the imagination of Iris Myandowski the handwalking queer?

May 2, 2017

What’s Your Dream Denim?

“What’s your dream denim?” is an actual question a GAP employee asked me not too long ago when she had discovered me wandering her shop in despair and confusion at whatever had happened in the world of pants since the last time I’d gone shopping. Not even on the clearance rack could one locate a pair of the low-rise skinny jeans I’d been wearing since 2009 when all pants basically became elasticated, the greatest revolution in leg wear the world has ever known. In their place instead was boyfriend jeans, and girlfriend jeans, and wide legged cropped jeans (WHA???), destructed jeans, and the most horrifying pair of jeans I have ever glimpsed: super high-waisted button-fly bellbottoms. What the actual fuck?

But revolutions in leg wear have always caught me unaware, the GAP’s late-1990s Khaki Swings Campaign notwithstanding—I bought a pair of those pants because I wanted to learn to dance like that, although it didn’t work. But I remember actually wearing tapered acid-washed and thinking that dark denim was a fashion crime, and then suddenly there we all were wearing dark-navy jeans with flares. And then one day about a decade on it was clear that flares were dying, and I vowed to never go tapered again, making fun of people who wore jeggings…until one day I had my own pair. Where did they even come from? I cannot tell you. If someone had told me fifteen years ago that I’d be wearing tapered jeans at age 37, I would have said they were crazy, but here I am, and frankly, I am terrified. Concerned that the pair I’m wearing right now might be the last pair of low-rise jeans in the world—who thinks high-waisted jeans look good on anybody? They make lithe 22-year-olds look dumpy, so what hope is there for the rest of us? It’s my one real complaint about millennials, their ridiculous waistlines—it is possible that none of them were ever taunted for pulling up their Buffalo jeans too high in 1991 so they have no idea about the grade-7 trauma their terrible pants could possibly induce.

But if fashion history is any indicator, about 15 months from now I’m going to be zipping myself into a pair of jeans whose waist rises to my clavicle. Maybe they will be flapered, which is a term I’ve just invented for a leg that is tapered just below the flare. In the boyfriend’s-cousin’s-hairdresser cut, which is like the boyfriend jean, but more tailored to one’s figure if one happens to be shaped like a broomstick. There is no dream denim, it is only a nightmare.

April 4, 2017

Dear Pottery Barn Kids Sherway Gardens

Dear Pottery Barn Kids Sherway Gardens,

Thank you for following me on Instagram. You have over 1300 followers, which is no small potatoes, and you are an internationally known brand located in a very good mall, so I should be flattered. And you’ve not only followed me, but you’re engaging with my posts, sharing baguette-related humour and being all ’round pleasant and fun. I feel like you and I could be friends…except you are a store. And you’re not just a store, you are a store that I can’t afford to enter because in order to afford your merchandise, I’d have to move up at least two income brackets. Do you know that I bought my kids’ bunkbed out of an actual garage in an industrial park at Jane and Finch? If you knew that, would you unfollow me? I showed my children a photo of the bunkbed on your feed that was built to resemble a playhouse, and they both went a bit gaga. They said, “Mommy, could we go there?” By which we all knew they really meant, “Is it possible to have another kind of life?”

I don’t know how they do it, those people who “engage with brands on social media.” How do you engage with a brand? When they make a joke on your instagram post, do you respond with, “Ha ha that’s funny by the way you’re a store”? Don’t get me wrong, I like stores. If I could afford to buy the playhouse bunkbed I’d be all over that shit. If you were having a clearance sale, I could possibly come in and purchase a facecloth (but only one that was on deep discount because a customer had bought it and returned it and the packaging had gone missing and someone had actually washed their face with it). But I don’t know how to talk to you. Everything in your posts is literally wearing a price tag or from a catalogue. How do you engage with a floor model? I don’t know what you look like. Do you even have a face?

Does a store dream, Pottery Barn Kids Sherway Gardens? Do you have hopes and fears? Do you cower at night in the silence of your mall and worry about climate change? As yuppies and their offspring traipse their dirty boots across your carpets in the daytime, do you ever wonder about the point of it all? What’s your favourite book? Your favourite recipe? Have you ever suffered from sexual dysfunction? Do you like cilantro? The artificial flavour for banana? What’s your favourite season? Do you have economic anxiety? Are you a public company? Do you ever consider your responsibility to your shareholders and then get really scared?

I want to know you. I want to be your friend and celebrate your birthday, and maybe even buy you a cup of coffee—but I can’t. So close you are, but still a world away. But maybe one day I’ll come across your wares on Craigslist and snap up something—a storage solution or an organic duvet insert—and maybe then this arrangement will all make sense. Perhaps one day I will understand.

Yours respectfully,


February 19, 2017

Speedy Deletion: How I Tried and Failed to be on Wikipedia

Because I tell you everything, you have to know that I’ve wanted a Wikipedia page since 2008. This was the year my friend got a Wikipedia page. At the time, I barely had a “Published Works” page on my website, and my website was on Blogspot, and I had a long, long way to travel still. And all these details are a little shameful to admit, because we’re all supposed to be cool about this sort of thing. Like, “Oh, do I have a Wikipedia page? I had no idea, because I certainly don’t google myself weekly.” In my next life, I hope to be that cool, but in this life, I’m the woman who finds every mention of me or my work two days before Google Alerts does. Just once I would like Google Alerts to surprise me—for me this would be a definition of success. It would mean not only that my online mentions were turning up in substantial volumes, but also that I have better things to do than hunt about on the internet looking for them.

Anyway, last summer I decided that the time had finally arrived. I’d amassed a small body of work, some prizes, publication credits, and had a debut novel on the horizon. Because it would be cheating to create my own Wikipedia page (although I have been told that this happens all the time) I asked my husband to make mine for me, a really romantic gesture. And he did. It was really nice, and there I was amongst Canadian authors, and Canadian authors born in 1979, even. But it hadn’t even been a day before the Kerry Clare wiki was causing trouble.

The trouble at the start was kind of innocuous. They wanted references and citations, and this was understandable. There was nothing personal about it. I filled in the blanks and added the details. And then the next problem flagged was that my page was not connected to other pages, or referenced by them. Never mind—I’d fix that too. I connected my page to that of authors who’d been published in my anthology; I linked to an author who’d published me in her anthology. If I could I would have literally underlined that I am in fact a National Magazine Award-nominated author, or bolded the text at the very least. And this, the fact of being a National Magazine Award-nominated author, is really a very Canadian thing—you don’t even have to win. But the Wikipedia editors didn’t know this. (Perhaps “this” is also kind of sad. Don’t think I didn’t consider it.)

It was about four days into my career as a person with a Wikipedia page that  things got more personal, that the notes on the discussion page began to be written by actual people as opposed to the template messages about links and additional citations. The people, who volunteered their time as Wikipedia editors, were not at all impressed by my accomplishments. And for awhile, I tried to engage with the process, to answer their questions, to fill in the blanks, to vouch for my own notability. But the more I tried, the more adamant the editors became. “Being nominated for an award does not make a person notable,” the editor explained. “She didn’t win the award. And her publication date is so far off into the future that it is likely, especially with the current state of publishing, that her book will never in fact be published.”

At this point I finally gave up. Although saying this suggests I had more agency in the matter than I actually did. Even if I hadn’t given up the fight to be on Wikipedia, I was on the shortlist for speedy deletion and it was probably going to happen anyway. But when I did give up, it was because it had dawned on me that battling to remain on Wikipedia was going to have to become my full-time job, and it was exhausting. Turns out I’m not so unnotable that I had absolutely nothing else to do with my time except battle it out with Wikipedia editors. If I’d devoted my life to staying on Wikipedia, I’d never be able to do anything else that was notable again.

I know some people who are as notable as dirt stuck to the bottom of my shoe, and they’re still on Wikipedia. How, I wonder, have they managed to pull it off? Perhaps it’s such a feat of incredible endurance that it makes a person notable after all?

A few lessons I took away from this: first, that the whole exercise is remarkably gendered. (The dirt on the bottom of the shoe people I refer to are male.) It was not lost on me that I am a woman who does have some accomplishments, and that my work was entirely dismissed without hesitation by a group of men who really knew nothing about those accomplishments, and who did not necessarily have any accomplishments of their own. Perhaps I am wrong about this final point, and I would be ecstatic if I were, in fact, but it does occur to me that profoundly successfully (or notable people) don’t necessarily have the time to be editing Wikipedia in the middle of the night. Anyway, the idea of mediocre men undermining a successful woman was not so mind-blowing—I don’t know where exactly, but I’ve heard that one before…

And the second lesson? That it’s really healthy for a person (especially a person who googles herself on a regular basis) to be reminded of her insignificance. I’m not being facetious. And that Wikipedia notability and other such metrics are not those with which we should necessarily gauge our success in the world. I mean, it would be nice, but these aren’t the things that matter. It’s good to know too one can be a total failure in all these respects, and still be entirely happy, and worthy of existence.

February 7, 2017

The hair has a jacket.

Someone tweeted a photo of Airforce One not long ago, its repulsive occupant on board, and occupant’s jacket was draped around his chair in a most peculiar way, as though the chair was wearing it. “Look! The chair has a jacket!” I tweeted in response, not remotely with wit, except that I actually made a typing error, and my reply in fact read, “Look! The hair has a jacket.” Completely lunacy. And I now have visions these days of running into crowded rooms and screaming this phrase, to everybody’s confusion. Who is that strange person?

Somehow between now and my book’s publication, I have to acquire some social skills. I also need to find footwear that isn’t a pair of dirty green rubber boots and a coat that is not in fact a giant duvet with sleeves, if I have any home of creating an impression of the author that isn’t “vagrant.” Vagrant who has forgotten how to smalltalk and keeps pointing out how the hair has a jacket.

January 19, 2017

The 1980s: Macleans Chronicles the Decade

Three years ago, I wrote about the importance of using books as literal building blocks, but it’s true that our metaphoric bookish building blocks are always what’s most fundamental. I suspect that somewhere deeply twined into my DNA is the book The 1980s: Macleans Chronicles the Decade, published in 1989 by Key Porter Books. It is possible that no one, apart from the book’s editors, have read this book as avidly as I did, for years and years, and at point in my life too when my brain was still forming so that its images are now seared upon my consciousness—in particularly, unfortunately, a photo of Lech Walesa fishing in his tiny underpants. It would be years before I learned why Lech Walesa mattered, and even once I did, I’ve never been able to disassociate him from his weird blue plaid briefs.

1991, of course, was the end of history, according to Francis Fukuyama, and this is the lens through which I viewed this book, perused its pictures, fascinated. History was done. In my recollection, I was literally in my grade seven history class when the Soviet Union was dissolved—though I am not sure how this is possible because the coup was in August and the union was finished on Christmas, and at neither of these moments was I at school, but still. It’s the idea of a thing. Suddenly all of history was there in the past, and I remember wondering what The 1990s: Macleans Chronicles THAT Decade would look like. But my family never got that book. If history is finished, who needs a chronicle after all?

A copy of this book lives on my shelf, and I don’t leaf through with the same regularity I did as a child, but I did the other week, after two months of feeling so downtrodden, uncannily not at home within the world in which I find myself. I’d read somewhere about the psychology of nostalgia, and how for all of us the moment of greatness in the past lies precisely when we were on the cusp of everything, with so much hope. Remember the ’80s, I was thinking, a decade so ripe with possibility, Lech Walesa’s underpants aside. But then as I started flipping the pages, seeing those iconic, devastating images—the Challenger explosion, famine stricken children in Ethiopia, Bloody Sunday in Beijing, the body of a child buried in ash after the gas leak at a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India; another dead child, lying with its mother, the casualty of poison gas attacks in the Iran-Iraq War; terrorist hijackings, albeit the retro kind when in the end the bad guys let the hostages go. But still. There’s an entire chapter entitled “Assassinations.” The ’80s were really terrible.

I want to hug the woman in the above photo who is protesting for the Equal Right Amendment to the US Constitution. “My foremother,” I want to say to her, “you don’t even fucking know.” Except she probably does, hence the look on her face. To think that 30 years after Henry Morgentaler, on the facing page, won his legal battle to strike down Canada’s abortion law, access to abortion would still seem so precarious (and only theoretical to Canadian women who live in so many places). #FuckThatShit has been my go-to hashtag these last few months as I grapple with “the absurdities that have been foisted on me and my neighbours,” to paraphrase Jane Jacobs. As Macleans chronicles the decade, things right now seem not much different from what they ever were.

None of this is a new story, in what I mean. Donald Trump and his ilk have always skulked the earth, knuckles dragging on the ground. Which is incredibly annoying and demoralizing, but also kind of reassuring too, that people have stood up against dark forces before and we can take courage from them. That goodness prevails, that things can get better.

The fight is never won, but maybe the winning is not the point, and instead the fight is.

January 15, 2017

Cake Breaker

I specialize in accidental cakes—I wrote about one of these in my favourite blog post ever. And here is another, in a post that was originally an Instagram post, but I was a few hundred words in before I realized it was a blog post after all. And so here it goes.

Yesterday there was no cake scheduled and there would have been no cake, except that when I was looking in a drawer for chopsticks at lunchtime (we were having udon noodles), I found an implement (shown in the photo above) which I’ve never used and cannot remember where it came from—from my mom or my aunt? Was it my grandmother’s? But regardless of origin, I didn’t even know its purpose: a comb? A plow for mashed potatoes? But then Stuart remembered that it was a cake server. “That’s right. But how??”

And then I googled “cake server with prongs” and found Jessica Reed’s website (“CakeWalk: Exploring Stories, History, and Identity Though Cake”), which is my new favourite place on the internet. In the post I found, Reed writes about this implement, “the cake breaker,” patented by Cale J Schneider in 1932. The cake breaker is specially designed to slice a cake without destroying it, essential in delicate cakes such as angelfood…

“Well, let’s make an angelfood cake,” I declared, determined—until I found the recipe had 12 eggs in it. Our eggs are free range and eggs are far far too precious for that. So no. I scoured my cookbooks for other options, and settled on an apple upside-down cake. Not the best cake for a breaker, I realized in retrospect, because it would have to slice through apples too. So not optimal, but it worked. We ate the second half of it this afternoon, and it was even yummier.

And the point of this, of course, is the amazing way that all roads (even udon!) lead to cake, however indirectly.

I mean, at least they do if you’re lucky…

January 9, 2017

To List, or Not to List

The scene: our bedroom, 11:50 on Thursday night. Stuart has turned out his lamp and rolled over to go to sleep, but my light is shining and there are urgent matters still to be discussed before the night is out. I’m thinking about Vicki Ziegler’s blog post about the books diary she’s been keeping since 1983

Me: Stuart—I have to talk to you about something.

Stuart: Mmm?

Me: Remember when I used to keep a list of all the books I read?

Stuart: Yeah.

Me: I stopped doing that—it seemed a bit less obsessive-compulsive to just read the books.

Stuart: Okay.

Me: But sometimes I worry, like I should have been keeping track, but I haven’t.

Stuart: Uh huh.

Me: I mean, I write about books on my blog, and there’s Goodreads, and if I really wanted to go back and compile a list, I could. I just don’t need to. Which is kind of a positive thing, I guess. Not a bad way to be.

Stuart: No?

Me: And I think probably what I am doing is the least bananas scenario, right? Being in the moment, just reading what I want to read. It’s what normal people do. A sign of good mental health.

Stuart: No.

Me: What?

Stuart: Normal people read books, or maybe they keep track in a list. But YOU have managed to not keep a list and also worry about not keeping a list, which is the most bananas way of all to be. It’s kind of amazing.

Me: You probably want to go to sleep.

Stuart: Yep.

Me: Good night.

Stuart: Schnurpzzzz.

December 21, 2016

The Little Free Library ™ As A Soul Destroying Exercise

One day this fall, I opened up a Little Free Library in my neighbourhood only to find it empty save for a bitterly scrawled missive: “The point is to leave some books too, people.” It was very sad, and corresponded with stories I’d heard about ownership of Little Free Libraries not being quite as rewarding as one might assume. A situation rife with narrative, I thought, so I decided to write a little story exploring this idea, and the story is my gift to you. 


Dear Neighbours,

We’re pleased to welcome you to Idlewood Avenue’s Little Free Library ™, a bastion of democratised learning where our property meets the sidewalk. We’ve been amassing volumes that we’re looking forward to sharing with you here in this box which we’ve painted to resemble a Carnegie library. And we welcome your volumes of all kinds—no literary snobbery permitted!

All books are friends here.

Barbara and Stephen Adolphus-Chang


We appreciate your enthusiasm during our first week and it was exciting to have the library cleaned out three days in a row. A couple of reminders: we’ve had a lot of takers but please try to leave books too. And if anybody knows who is responsible for the penis drawings administered with Sharpies, we’d like to hear about it.

Although a little bird has suggested that the culprits were from the student rental house—can anyone corroborate?

Barb and Steve A-C


A note that this notice board is for Little Free Library ™ related news only—posters for Doggie Do-Walk Dog Walker Services have been removed. Also, while your contributions are appreciated, we would ask neighbours to refrain from donating their VHS collections.

Books only, please!

Barb and Steve


Someone has been leaving small lavender-scented bags of dog waste inside our library. Coincidentally, this began when the Doggie Do-Walk Dog-Walker posters were removed from our board, though we are not pointing fingers. Or paws. But this is certainly not neighbourly behaviour.

Barb and Steve


We are writing to thank you for a rewarding first month of Little Free Library ™ stewardship, and also to object to allegations that we “traffic in smut.” If you find Judith Krantz’s intimate depictions too titillating, that is down to you.

Further, passing a copy of Scruples to your eight-year-old daughter was a decision you embarked upon of your own volition, so do know we are judging you right back!

B & S


The penis problem continues, now in multi-coloured hues. We’ll be repainting, but if it happens again, the phalluses will stand and the tone of the neighbourhood will suffer. A reminder to tenants in the student rental house that this is not funny, and if you ever grow up, perhaps one day you might understand that.


Barbara and Stephen


Apologies for slandering the residents of the student rental house. We met with them last Tuesday and found them to be upstanding community members, as invested as we are in keeping Idlewood Avenue penis-free. Together, we are coordinating a graffiti removal campaign involving pressure hoses. Stay tuned for details. We’re grateful also for the students’ book donations. Once we weeded out the second-hand chemistry texts, some interesting titles emerged.

Too bad about the highlighted paragraphs and vulgar marginalia (some of which included penis doodles that looked a little familiar. Hmmm….).

But yours in benefits of the doubt!

Babs and Stee


THE SHIT LEAVING CONTINUES. What is wrong with people? You paint a box to look like a Carnegie Library out of the goodness of your heart, and then people fill it with excrement? HOW DO YOU SLEEP AT NIGHT? And then the VHS tapes keep on coming. This is all very hard.

I never envisioned Little Free Library ™ ownership as a soul-destroying exercise.



Rest assured that while Barbara is taking her temporary leave from Little Free Library ™ stewardship in the name of self-care, the library will continue to operate as usual. Stipulations re dog waste and VHS tapes still stand.

Also, to the man who removed all the books and sold them at the shitty used bookshop at the end of the road, we know who you are.



Thanks to those a behind recent generous donation of poetry—we’ve got enough slim volumes there to stock our Little Free Library ™ for weeks. I urge readers to pick some of these up as they’re rich with wonders and also we have a lot of them. Further, please make use of our newly installed garbage bin for any fast food packaging. There has been some confusion about whether or not our Little Free Library is a waste receptacle.

To be clear: it is not.


PS: Barb is recovering well. Thanks for asking.


I’m thrilled to welcome Daryl Parsley-Hemingway to our Little Free Library ™ team to help me out as Barb continues to convalesce. Daryl is a university student, English major and a distant relative of Mariel Hemingway, who is a noted author of two memoirs, so Daryl has literary pedigree. He has great ideas about how to curate our collection and will be working to enhance our online presence.

Looking forward to seeing you on the information highway!



We’re writing to address last night’s upsetting incident when our entire Little Free Library ™ collection was tossed out into the rain and at least $30 worth of used paperbacks were destroyed. We are grateful to neighbours who’ve come through with emergency donations at short notice. Looking at the library this morning, you’d never suspect anything had happened, but the incident still must be acknowledged. And yes, Larry, we know you did it and we still refuse to stock your self-published memoir.

Sticking to our guns in defense of traditional publishing platforms,

Steve and Daryl


Just a reminder that if you’re taking books, take care to leave a few too. Think of our Little Free Library ™ as a kind of conversation—you don’t want to just be a listener! And to that end, Daryl has set up Idlewood Avenue Little Free Library ™ web presences on various social mediums.

We heartily urge you to “check us out” there and find out new ways to be involved.

Steve and Daryl


No doubt you’ve been made aware of a “competitor” setting up across the street. We’ve been receiving a lot of love from neighbours who view this Wee Take-a-Book Box as a threat to our own project. But we want everyone to know that this relationship need not be adversarial. Idlewood Avenue has room enough for two libraries, though we wish also to remark that the Wee Take-A-Book Box neither bears the official Little Free Library ™ trademark, nor does its stewards adhere to our literary standards. However, patrons are free to decide for themselves what kind of miniature libraries they wish to see in the world.

It’s a free country.

Steve and Daryl


Forgive our sparseness, but we’ve been cleaned out nearly every day, which would be good news, except that all our titles are turning up in the Wee Take-a-Book Box, identical volumes right down to the same dedications. (“Dearest Audrey, Here’s something fun to tide you over until the pleurisy clears up. Love, Edna.”) To consider this a coincidence would be absurd, but even so, police were called and we were banned from the property and then later that night when the Wee Take-a-Book Box’s glass door was smashed, we got blamed for that too—even though Stephen had gone to bed early and Daryl was working on a group project. In all the hubbub it’s been forgotten that we are in fact the wronged party.

We appreciate your support at this difficult time.

Steve and Daryl


Thanks to everyone who was there for us last week. We are particularly grateful for those who dropped off books to replace all those that were stolen. FYI: Daryl is very busy with his group project so if things seem slow on the web this week, that’s why.

And a kind reminder too that we are (still!) not a waste receptacle.

Stephen and Daryl


It’s a beautiful day and we’ve got a stellar selection for you all, including some rare first editions, kitschy 1980s microwave oven cookbooks, and three copies of last year’s disappointing national book award winner, which sold a lot of copies but proved unreadable. Potential collector items, all of them.

Happy Browsing!



Dear Neighbours,

I write you with the devastating news that the group project in which my co-librarian Daryl Parsley-Hemingway has been engaged is actually an affair with my wife Barbara. It turns out that Barbara is farther along in her recovery than I understood, and has decided to permanently absent herself both from stewardship of our Little Free Library ™ and also of our marriage.

For obvious reasons, I have asked that Daryl no longer be affiliated with the library, and I will also be taking a temporary hiatus. I hope to return when I am stronger.

Stephen Adolphus


For Sale: One Little Free Library ™ box along with official charter status to the Little Free Library ™ organization. $50 or best offer. Must pick up.

May 12, 2016

Throwback Thursday

vinnieI was a compulsive photographer and documenter of days long before I’d ever heard of social media, although it’s true that I didn’t photograph my lunch back then. But it’s true that I used to take photos of everything and everybody, evidence of this being picture after people of lined up in a row looking awkward and confused about just why I am taking their pictures. People sitting around a table looking unimpressed seemed to be my primary focus as a photographer, although I think they’d been happy and engaged enough until I pulled my camera out, this being, of course, why I wanted to take the picture. To capture something. As if that was even possible, and it makes me things of the drawers in Joan Didion’s New York apartment in Blue Nights stuffed with envelopes and documents and things that she imagined could keep her from losing the people she loved. I have engaged with that book, in all its messiness and imperfections, in a way that I haven’t with The Year of Magical Thinking. I say “haven’t” because I imagine that I will some day, that like with Rachel Cusk’s A Life’s Work and motherhood, one day my universe will shatter and I will finally understand what Didion is talking about about. Not that I’m counting down to that. But I understand the impulses of Blue Nights so innately, and not just because it’s May and the nights are blue and we’re coming up to the solstice. And my urge to capture and keep everything that happened to me back in those days between the ages of 16 and 23, say, ultimately would come to nothing. It was always going to be like that.

(For me everything hinges on 2002. I met my husband that year and stopped longing, and have been more or less happy ever since. Everything that ever happened before that year mostly mortifies me to consider now. And I wonder if I was able to shrug off my impulse to document it all and keep everything because from that point on I had someone with whom I could verify that all of these things actually happened. Another idea: that the internet took over my life that year and I started capturing everything online. And that I’m just as a compulsive a documenter as I ever was, and well, you’re kind of reading the evidence of that.)

The other night I had occasion to sort through my boxes of photographs upstairs. I have one from high school and the other from university. There used to be many, many more photographs, but I did a cull about a decade ago because there are only so many photos a person needs of her boyfriend from grade eleven, though I did not think so when I posed for those shots. And what I realized the other night as I was looking through photos from my university years is most of these photos signify nothing now. There are people I love and unbelievably bad haircuts, and I continue to be baffled by everything I ever wore. The decor of all of my bedrooms is also unfathomable: throughout those years I had either a Spice Girls or John Travolta as Vinnie Barbarino post above my bed at all times, plus inspirational quotes written in marker on index cards, an album cover with a picture of Nana Mouskouri on it, and a campaign poster for John F. Kennedy. It was kind of a weird aesthetic.

IMG_20160512_215358And maybe I knew it was always going to get lost. Perhaps it was never about capturing and keeping, but instead about evidence that any of it had ever been. That if it weren’t for the photos, I’d never believe in a room like that, and I’ve got the pictures and I still don’t. And I see my friends and I with our arms around our shoulders in rooms that I don’t recognize, places where I’m sure I’ve never been. There are people in those photos who mean nothing to me now. And there are holes in my memory as big as oceans—did you know that I saw Prince on stage with Sheryl Crow at the Lilith Fair in 1999? I didn’t. I still don’t, really. And even the stranger things, like the photo from my 22nd birthday party, me and three other people, and two of them are dead. Or that during the 2000/2001 school year, I lived in an apartment with a huge black and white photo of the New York City skyline at night hanging over the fireplace. The World Trade Centre, but I never even knew what those towers were called until five months after I’d moved out of there and into another apartment, until the towers were gone and we sat on our roof that night watching the CN Tower gone dark.

Maybe it’s not the photos that turned out to signify nothing that so fascinate me, but instead the ones that ended up telling stories so different from those I thought I was telling at the time.

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Mitzi Bytes

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