Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Economist / Shit Show / Will

Every week another Economist comes. I pull it out of my tiny mailbox and walk it up my stairs with some other bills and catalogues. When I get inside I see the other Economist, the one from last week, sitting on the kitchen table with a functional looking cover. The Economist covers are obvious and unimaginative. I usually have not read much from it, and I feel guilty putting it into the recycling. We don't have a proper bin. We just put our paper into a paper shopping bag and put it downstairs. I think people just end up putting it with the garbage, out onto the street, and into a landfill, but we feel like we are doing a little bit better. There doesn't seem to be very much initiative being taken in city hall with regards to recycling. If I have read an article or more from the old Economist I feel slightly less guilty about throwing it away. Sometimes I save the special reports, but I rarely read those either. I do not find them entertaining or interesting. I find that they have a psychic effect akin to pummeling. Every week it shows up baring bad news from places I have never even thought about before. My dad gives me the subscription for Christmas. I do not think that the Economist is an objective source of news; it is a comprehensive and rigorous source of news. Most times I resent it. Other times I feel like I should be more aware: I should save them for future reference. The Economist calls itself a newspaper, so they are letting me off the hook. Newspapers are meant to be thrown away, or kept under microfiche at the library. The Economist has a circulation of 1.3 million - I wonder how many of those copies are recycled; how many are stored; how many end up in landfills.


There was a British guy I knew who was planting trees with me. One day we were on a block that was like, a grass field puntuated by patches of full-grown spruce trees. There were no stumps, hardly.

You could get lost in this block. People cover a lot of ground on each bag out. You would plant trees and then finish your bags and look around you and have no idea where you were. It hailed like a motherfucker that day.

The hail was the size of gobstoppers. This British guy had on short sleeves. I ducked under a tarp and smoked cigarettes (this is when I smoked). I watched this British guy, who had no idea where I was, planting trees in the hail. He would say, 'you are such a pussy Will, you are such a pussy Will.' Then he would run out from the trees into the hail to plant trees. I could hear the hail hitting his skin from 20 meters away. He would break down in pain and then run back under a tree to take cover.

He would sit there breathing heavily for a while, looking down. I couldn't tell if he was crying, but I heard him whimper. 'You're such a pussy Will,' over and over, all by himself. It was cold, too: I could see his breath. He ran back into the land, whimpering. 'OWWWWW' he said.

I called out after a while: 'WILL.' and he scampered over to where I was. He was incredibly relieved that I was not out in the hail, that it would be okay for him not to be out there in physical and emotional agony.

The Economist is to me as the hail is to Will.

We froze for the rest of the day in a downpour, under that tree. We were supposed to be working, but it wasn't worth it. We weren't strong enough to take it. My cigarettes became waterlogged. Everything became waterlogged. We were hiding under a tarp when the helicopter picked us up at the end of the day. Our boss yelled at us for not finishing our work. We were wasting money from the heli-budget to go back to it the next day.

We got back to camp at around nine pm. that night and the dry tent, the place where people dry their clothes, was a pile of smoldering ash.

I learned that somebody had put their sleeping bag too close to the heater/dryer, and that it had ignited.

Will had all of his stuff in there. He lost all of his shit. His socks, his underwear. All of his shit.

Dude had a look of total disbelief.

His tent was burned, his sleeping bag was burned. He had to sleep with another dude. He worked though.

He looked like a ghost for the next week. I imagine this is what war vets who've seen combat look like.

He reached a point where he felt like things could not possibly get any worse - and in that context they really couldn't. He kept doing his job. It wasn't heroic or anything. He just couldn't really do anything else. He was trapped in the camp.

And in this respect people started to look up to him a little. People thought it was crappy for themselves - and it was. That contract was brutal: it rained all the time, nobody was making any money, and the days were like 15 hours long. But they looked over at Will...

He didn't need to complain. He was the physical embodiment of complaint. You looked at him with his pale face, borrowed clothes, covered in filth, and you couldn't help but smile. He never really said anything, and became a kind of emotional leader.


Dear Will. People probably don't ask you about stuff like that, and you are a humble person who would not want to make a big production out of your trials.

Still: I want you to know that I will remember that night you lost your shit.