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Tired Masculinity (by Garth Martens)

By 49thShelf
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The books I've chosen contribute to a conversation about masculinity. They don't offer new visions of masculinity, but they complicate the stereotype, the archetype, of the ordinary heterosexual man, whoever that is. They refuse the blinkered, reductive view. I've worked seven years off and on construction sites in Western Canada where there were seldom any women. The men I've known shared standards by which they measured themselves men. Eager to fit this role, each man nevertheless veered from it in astonishing ways. By shared understanding the crew moderated itself. And if each man was regulated by the tribe, he was also judged at a cross-cut by the public. So often I felt myself summed up at a glance merely because I wore steel-toed boots, a belt and hardhat. In cars or on foot, passersby denied us any place in the wider commonwealth: we were simply enemy struts, and most of us celebrated that image, it's true. For a playful photographic interrogation of these stereotypes, view the “Men Up!” series in this artist's portfolio: **Garth Martens is a construction labourer for an Edmonton-based commercial construction company and a recent graduate of the University of Victoria's MFA program. Garth was the winner of the 2010 Bronwen Wallace Award for most promising Canadian writer under 35. He is a former member of The Malahat Review's poetry editorial board and The Open Space Arts Society's Board of Directors. He lives in Argentina. **
Larry's Party

Chapter One
Fifteen Minutes in the Life of Larry Weller

By mistake Larry Weller took someone else’s Harris tweed jacket instead of his own, and it wasn't until he jammed his hand in the pocket that he knew something was wrong.

His hand was traveling straight into a silky void. His five fingers pushed down, looking for the balled-up Kleenex from his own familiar worn-out pocket, the nickels and dimes, the ticket receipts from all the movies he and Dorrie had been seeing lately. Also those hard little bits of lint, like meteor grip, that never seem to lose themselves once they've worked into the seams.

This pocket -- today’s pocket -- was different. Clean, a slippery valley. The stitches he touched at the bottom weren't his stitches. His fingertips glided now on a sweet little sea of lining. He grabbed for the buttons. Leather, the real thing. And something else -- the sleeves were a good half inch longer than they should have been.

This jacket was twice the value of his own. The texture, the seams. You could see it got sent all the time to the cleaners. Another thing, you could tell by the way the shoulders sprang out that this jacket got parked on a thick wooden hanger at night. Above a row of polished shoes. Refilling its tweedy warp and woof with oxygenated air.

He should have run back to the coffee shop to see if his own jacket was still scrunched there on the back of his chair, but it was already quarter to six, and Dorrie was expecting him at six sharp, and it was rush hour and he wasn't anywhere near the bus stop.

And -- the thought came to him -- what’s the point? A jacket’s a jacket. A person who patronized a place like Café Capri is almost asking to get his jacket copped. This way all that’s happened is a kind of exchange.

Forget the bus, he decided. He'd walk. He'd stroll. In his hot new Harris tweed apparel. He'd push his shoulders along, letting them roll loose in their sockets. Forward with the right shoulder, bam, then the left shoulder coming up from behind. He'd let his arms swing wide. Fan his fingers out. Here comes the Big Guy, watch out for the Big Guy.

The sleeves rubbed light across the back of his hands, scratchy but not too scratchy.

And then he saw that the cuff buttons were leather too, a smaller-size version of the main buttons, but the same design, a sort of cross-pattern like a pecan pit cut in quarters, only the slices overlapped this little bit. You could feel the raised design with you finger, the way the four quadrants of leather crossed over and over each other, their edges cut wavy on the inside margin. These waves intersected in the middle, dived down there in a dark center and disappeared. A black hole in the button universe. Zero.

Quadrant was a word Larry hadn't even thought of for about ten years, not since geometry class, grade eleven.

The color of the jacket was mixed shades of brown, a strong background of freckled tobacco tones with subtle orange flecks. Very subtle. No one would say: hey, here comes this person with orange flecks distributed across his jacket. You'd have to be an inch away before you took in those flecks.

Orange wasn't Larry’s favorite color, at least not in the clothing line. He remembered He'd had orange swim trunks back in high school, MacDonald Secondary, probably about two sizes too big, since he was always worrying at that time in his life about his bulge showing, which was exactly the opposite of most guys, who made a big point of showing what they had. Modesty ran in his family, his mum, his dad, his sister, Midge, and once modesty gets into your veins you're stuck with it. Dorrie, on the other hand, doesn't even shut the bathroom door when she’s in there, going. A different kind of family altogether.

He'd had orange socks once too, neon orange. That didn't last too long. Pretty soon he was back to white socks. Sports socks. You got a choice between a red stripe around the top, a blue stripe, or no stripe at all. Even geeks like Larry and his friend Bill Herschel, who didn't go in for sports, they still wore those thick cotton sports socks every single day. You bought them three in a pack and they lasted about a week before they fell into holes. You always thought, hey, what a bargain, three pairs of socks at this fantastic price!

White socks went on for a long time in Larry’s life. A whole era.

Usually he didn't button a jacket, but it just came to him as he was walking along that he wanted to do up one of those leather buttons, the middle one. It felt good, not too tight over the gut. The guy must be about his own size, 40 medium, which is lucky for him. If, for example, He'd picked up Larry’s old jacket, he could throw it in the garbage tomorrow, but at least he wasn't walking around Winnipeg with just his shirt on his back. The nights got cool this time of year. Rain was forecast too.

A lot of people don't know that Harris tweed is virtually waterproof. You'd think cloth this thick and woolly would soak up water like a sponge, but, in actual fact, rain slides right off the surface. This was explained to Larry by a knowledgeable old guy who worked in menswear at Hector’s. That would be, what, nine, ten years ago, before Hector’s went out of business. Larry could tell that this wasn't just a sales pitch. The guy -- he wore a lapel button that said “Salesman of the Year” -- talked about how the sheep they've got over there are covered with special long oily hair that repels water. This made sense to Larry, a sheep standing out in the rain day and night. That was his protection.

Dorrie kept wanting him to buy a khaki trenchcoat, but he doesn't need one, not with his Harris tweed. You don't want bulk when you're walking along. He walks a lot. It’s when he does his thinking. He hums his thoughts out on the air like music; they've got a disco beat; My name is Larry Weller. I'm a floral designer, twenty-six years old, and I'm walking down Notre Dame Avenue, in the city of Winnipeg, in the country of Canada, in the month of April, in the year 1977, and I'm thinking hard. About being hungry, about being late, about having sex later on tonight. About how great I feel in this other guy’s Harris tweed jacket.

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Why it's on the list ...
It's no shock, of course. Men might write strong female characters, or women strong male characters. Shields does it so well it becomes, for me, an astonishment. Larry's an ordinary man, if we think of ordinary as the unexceptional and working class. To Shields' credit, she doesn't make Larry a buffoon. We laugh where merited, we see his failings, but we admire him too. So often in print and on screen, men of Larry's extraction are belittled. I was confronted by particularities of male-ness I'd never encountered before in books. These were surprising and immediately recognizable.
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The Sentinel

The Sentinel

also available: eBook
tagged : canadian
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Why it's on the list ...
I like poets who teach me something as a writer, and Moritz has a lot to offer. I admire his music, his ruddied diction, and the way in which he combines visceral detail with the abstract. These poems seem like frontier stations marking either end of civilization, its founding and confounding. If some pieces enter the realm of the personal, they never feel confessional, they never rest exclusively in the here-and-now, but draw upon vast shadows of history, philosophy, and metaphysics. Although PK Page praised Moritz as a poet of “high seriousness,” and this is true, he is playful too. I can't say this book is preoccupied with notions of masculinity, but the title poem includes these pleasing, relevant lines describing men at camp, their dreams “of bleeding inwardly, of growing a third arm, / of removing the penis like a banana from its skin / and passing it around the campfire, vaguely anxious / the others won't pass it back.”
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Alden Nowlan Selected Poems

Alden Nowlan Selected Poems

also available: Paperback Paperback
tagged : canadian
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Why it's on the list ...
As the editors of this posthumous Selected note in their Foreward, you've a real sense of the writer behind the poems. The poet's persona doesn't seem artificial, but three dimensional: not without bristle, not without bite, he has anyway an appealing candour. When I hear these poems I hear the sea's tidal slide and a fiddler's rough bowing of a strathspey.
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Who Has Seen the Wind
Why it's on the list ...
This was my grandmother's favourite novel. I can't help reading it with her in mind. Raised in Saskatchewan, she knew the country and era described. This is a classic in Canadian fiction, but I wonder if younger readers know it. We follow four-year-old Brian O’Connal as he moves among prairie people and the prairie town, the prairies themselves: animal bones, the local madman, ants, ache, his father's death, these infringe on Brian's boyhood.
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Tay John


The time of this in its beginning, in men’s time, is 1880 in the summer, and its place is the Athabaska valley, near its head in the mountains, and along the other waters falling into it, and beyond them a bit, over Yellowhead Pass to the westward, where the Fraser, rising in a lake, flows through wilderness and canyon down to the Pacific.

In those days Canada was without a railway across the mountains. The Canadian Pacific was being built, but it was not till 1885 that the first train steamed over its rails to reach tidewater at Port Moody. Its crossing of the Rocky Mountains was by Kicking Horse Pass, more than two hundred miles to the south of Yellowhead. So that it might be built and that men might gain money from its building, Canada was made a dominion. British Columbia, a colony of England, became the most western province of the territory now stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

In time another railway was built. It was called the Grand Trunk Pacific, and passed through the mountains at Yellowhead. That was in 1911.

Until that happened the country around Yellowhead and on the headwaters of the Athabaska, the Arctic’s most southern slope, was little changed from what it had always been. It was a game country, and men found meat when they travelled. In the summer the days were long and the nights only brief twilight between the sun’s setting and rising. Pine- and fir-trees grew in the valleys, and good grass on the flats and benches; and higher on the mountain slopes, close to the rock and snow, spruce and balsam. Poplar, birch and alder, and tall willows grew in the river bottoms; and everywhere was the sound of running water. In the winters the nights were long. Streams and lakes were frozen. Frost split trees. The wind blew up the Athabaska from the north, and blizzards rose in the valley. Still, sometimes it would be quiet, with the sun shining, and then a man’s voice talking could be heard two miles away across the snow.

For a long time fur brigades from Hudson Bay and Fort Garry on the prairies travelled the Athabaska valley. They used horses in the summer and dog-teams in the winter. At first they followed the river to its head, and at the Committee’s Punchbowl met those who had come up from the Columbia river valley with beaver skins. For these they exchanged rum and leather and pemmican and came back with the fur eastward. When the lower Columbia valley turned to the Americans and became part of their nation, the brigades swung out of the Athabaska lower down and crossed the mountains at Yellowhead Pass to trade with the Indians and white trappers along the Fraser as far down as Fort Prince George. In time the people around Fort Prince George began to send their furs out by the new Cariboo road to the Pacific, and fur brigades then ceased to travel through the Athabaska valley. The posts they had built in good places where there was game and fish, feed for their horses, and wood for their fires, were no longer used. Their roofs caved in under the snow, and wind blew the moss chinking from between the logs that walled them. Grass grew in the ruts of the trails. Along the trails “blazes,” filled with yellow pitch, burned into the tree bark with no one to see them, like lanterns left and forgotten.

In 1880 one man remained by the Athabaska river where it flowed through the mountains. He was tall, fair-haired and fair-bearded, and his blue eyes, stung with the snow, streamed with water when he stood outside and faced the sun. He lived in a cabin on a point above the river where the trail leaves it to follow the Miette to Yellowhead Pass. He trapped and hunted, and traded with bands of wandering Indians. Once a year, in the spring, he took his furs eastward out of the mountains by pack-horse to Edmonton. He was named Red Rorty, and was thought by himself and some others to be a strong man because sometimes on a still day he could be heard shouting from five miles off. He shouted at his horses when they were hard to catch, or at an Indian who had brought poor furs to trade. At other times he would shout when there was nothing to shout for, and would listen and smile when the mountains hurled his voice — rolled it from one rock wall to another, until it seemed he heard bands of men, loosed above him, calling one to another as they climbed farther and higher into the rock and ice.

Much alone, he was given to hearing strange sounds and to seeing a tree far off as a man, or a bunch of trees down the valley from his cabin as a group of men advancing towards him. So that he could see better what was around him and that no one might come upon him unawares, he had made a wide clearing around his cabin, which he kept free of willows and all bush tending to grow there. A pine-tree on the edge of the clearing, ninety yards from his door, was marked with lead from his rifle because of the times in the moonlight he had looked out and thought he saw it moving before him.

His cabin — tidy, with hard earth for its floor — held a stove, a table, a bed, and a bench to sit on. Pack-saddles, bridles, and blankets were hung by its door under the eaves. Its logs were white-washed, so that it gleamed against his eyes from far off when he returned from hunting.

Red Rorty was the first son of many born on a homestead in Bruce County in Ontario. He came west when he was young and worked on the land near Fort Carry. After a while he got a job wrangling horses on a party sent out to the mountains to line the rivers into the contours of the land. When the party disbanded at Edmonton he returned to the Athabaska valley with four horses and the money he had saved, and built himself a cabin — for of all the country he had seen he liked it the best.

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Why it's on the list ...
In his early Canadian novel, set in the Canadian Northwest, O'Hagan pushes the narrative incrementally into mythological country. His protagonist, described on the dust jacket as a “messianic halfbreed,” is an impressive and defiant leader of a displaced people. One of the more vivid scenes in Canadian fiction involves Tay John's use of an axe. This is drumming prose, story-telling in the vein of Australian novelist Patrick White.
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Stanley Park

Stanley Park

also available: Paperback
tagged : literary
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The Canvasback

They arranged to meet at Lost Lagoon. It was an in-between place, the city on one side, Stanley Park on the other. Ten years of rare contact, and they had sought each other out. Surprised each other, created expectations.

Now the Professor was late.

Jeremy Papier found a bench up the hill from the lagoon and opened a section of newspaper across the wet boards. The bench was between two cherry trees, the pink blossoms of which met high over his head forming an arch, a doorway. It wasn’t precisely the spot they’d discussed–the Professor had suggested the boathouse–but it was within eyesight, within shouting distance. It was close enough. If he had to wait, Jeremy thought, settling onto the paper and blowing out a long breath, he was going to sit. He crossed one long, aching leg over the other. He fingered the tooling on a favourite pair of cowboy boots, ran long fingers through tangled black hair.

He sat because he was tired, certainly. Jeremy accepted that being a chef, even a young chef, meant being exhausted most of the time. But there had also been a family portrait taken here, on this bench, years before. Also early spring, he remembered; the three of them had sat here under the cherry blossoms.

Jeremy on the one side, seven years old. His mother, Hélène, on the other. The Professor had his arms around them both, feet flat on the grass. He looked extremely pleased. Jeremy’s mother was less obviously so, her expression typically guarded, although she made dozens of copies of the photo and sent these off to relatives spread across Europe from Ireland to Spain, from the Czech Republic to as far east as Bulgaria. Documenting settlement. He wondered if his father, who had no relations other than those in the photo, would remember this detail.

Now Jeremy lit a cigarette and watched an erratic stream of homeless people making their way into the forest for the night. When he arrived there had been seawall walkers and hotdog eaters, birdwatchers, rollerbladers, chess players returning from the picnic tables over by bowling greens. Then lagoon traffic changed direction like a freak tide. The flow of those heading back to their warm apartments in the West End tapered to nothing, and the paths were filled with the delusional, the alcoholic, the paranoid, the bipolar. The Professor’s subjects, his obsession. The inbound. Four hundred hectares of Stanley Park offering its bleak, anonymous shelter to those without other options.

Of course, Jeremy didn’t have to remind himself, the Professor had other options.

They had discussed meeting on the phone earlier in the week. When Jeremy picked up–expecting a late reservation, maybe his black-cod supplier, who was due into Vancouver the next morning–he heard wind and trees rustling at the other end of the line. Normally reticent, the Professor was animated about his most recent research.

“… following on from everything that I have done,” he said, “culminating with this work.” From his end, standing at a pay phone on the far side of the lagoon, the Professor could hear the dishwasher hammering away in the background
behind his son’s tired response.

“Participatory anthropology. Is that what you call it now?” Jeremy was saying. “I thought it was immersive.”

“Like everything,” the Professor answered, “my work has evolved.”

He needed help with something, the Professor said. He wanted to meet.

“How unusual,” Jeremy said.

“And what advice can I give on running a restaurant?” the Professor shot back.

“None,” Jeremy answered. “I just said there was something I wanted to talk to you about. Something that had to do with the restaurant.”

“Strange times,” the Professor said, looking into the darkness around the pay phone. Checking instinctively.

Very strange. The stream of those inbound had slowed to a trickle. A trio of men passed, bent behind shopping carts that were draped and hung with plastic, heaped to the height of pack horses, bags full of other bags. Jeremy could only wonder at the purpose of them all, although the Professor could have told him that the bag itself captured the imagination. It held emblematic power. For its ability to hold, certainly. To secure contents, to carry belongings from place to place. But even the smell of the plastic, its oily permanence, suggested the resilience of things discarded.

Jeremy watched the three men make their way around the lagoon and disappear into the trails. He glanced at his watch, sighed. Lifted his chin and breathed in the saline breeze. It brought to mind the ocean beyond the park, sockeye salmon schooling in the deep, waiting for the DNA-encoded signal to turn in their millions and rush the mouth of the Fraser, the tributary offshoot, the rivulet of water and the gravel-bed spawning grounds beyond. Mate, complete the cycle, die. And then, punctuating this thought, the rhododendron bushes across the lawn boiled briefly and disgorged Caruzo, the Professor’s manic vanguard.

“Hey, hey,” Caruzo said, approaching the bench. “Chef Papier.” He exhaled the words in a blast.

He dressed for the mobile outdoor life, Caruzo. Three or four sweaters, a torn corduroy jacket, a heavy coat, then a raincoat over all of that. It made the big man even bigger, the size of a lineman, six foot five, although stooped a little with the years. Those being of an indeterminate number; Jeremy imagined only that it must be between fifty and ninety. Caruzo had a white garbage bag tied on over one shoe, although it was only threatening to rain, and pants wrapped at the knees in electrical tape. His ageless, wind-beaten face was protected by a blunt beard that fell to his chest. Exposed skin had darkened, blackened as a chameleon might against the same forest backdrop.

“The Professor,” Caruzo announced, “is waiting.”

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Why it's on the list ...
Stanley Park is a sensuous and hilarious foray into chef culture, food ethics, and the local food movement. Its other subjects include: voluntary homelessness, an unsolved murder, Faustian pacts, and Stanley Park itself. The protagonist's relationship with his father, an anthropologist who has moved into Stanley Park, and his aggressive relationship with Dante, the ballsy businessman, qualify the book for this list. The novel's an immensely addictive read.
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Deptford Trilogy
Why it's on the list ...
Spectacle, magic, hagiography, murder, Jungian archetypes, these imperfectly explain why this trilogy's so difficult to put down. The real reason? Davies is a story-teller of the highest order. His narrator-protagonist Dunstan Ramsay is a high school teacher and amateur hagiographer whose life is changed by the toss of a snowball. He is the backseat driver in the big race, the minor player on the stage, Fifth Business.
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Woodsmen of the West

In Vancouver
As you walk down Cordova Street in the city of Vancouver you notice a gradual change in the appearance of the shop windows. The shoe stores, drug stores, clothing stores, phonograph stores cease to bother you with their blinding light. You see fewer goods fit for a bank clerk or man in business; you leave “high tone” behind you.
You come to shops that show faller’s axes, swamper’s axes – single-bitted, double-bitted; screw jacks and pump jacks, wedges, sledge-hammers, and great seven-foot saws with enormous shark teeth, and huge augers for boring boomsticks, looking like properties from a pantomime workshop.
Leckie calls attention to his logging boot, whose bristling spikes are guaranteed to stay in. Clarke exhibits his Wet Proof Peccary Hogskin gloves, that will save your hands when you work with wire ropes. Dungaree trousers are shown to be copper-riveted at the places where a man strains them in working. Then there are oilskins and blankets and rough suits of frieze for winter wear, and woollen mitts.
Outside the shop windows, on the pavement in the street, there is a change in the people too. You see few women. Men look into the windows; men drift up and down the street; men lounge in groups upon the curb. Your eye is struck at once by the unusual proportion of big men in the crowd, men that look powerful even in their town clothes.
Many of these fellows are faultlessly dressed: very new boots, new black clothes of quality, superfine black shirt, black felt hat. A few wear collars.
Others are in rumpled clothes that have been slept in; others, again, in old suits and sweaters; here and there one in dungarees and working boots. You are among loggers.
They are passing time, passing the hours of the days of their trip to town. They chew tobacco, and chew and chew and expectorate, and look across the street and watch any moving thing. At intervals they will exchange remarks impassively; or stand grouped, hands in pockets, two or three men together in gentle, long-drawn-out conversations. They seem to feel the day is passing slowly; they have the air of ocean passengers who watch the lagging clock from meal-time to meal-time with weary effort. For comfort it seems they have divided the long day into reasonable short periods; at the end of each ’tis “time to comeanava-drink.” You overhear the invitations as you pass.
Now, as you walk down street, you see how shops are giving place to saloons and restaurants, and the price of beer decorates each building’s front. And you pass the blackboards of employment offices and read chalked thereon: –
“50 axemen wanted at Alberni
5 rigging slingers $4
buckers $3½, swampers $3.”
And you look into the public rooms of hotels that are flush with the street as they were shop windows; and men sit there watching the passing crowd, chairs tipped back, feet on window-frame, spittoons handy.
You hear a shout or two and noisy laughter, and walk awhile outside the kerb, giving wide berth to a group of men scuffling with one another in alcohol-inspired play. They show activity.
Then your eye catches the name-board of a saloon, and you remember a paragraph in the morning’s paper –
“In a row last night at the Terminus Saloon several men . . .”
and it occurs to you that the chucker-out of a loggers’ saloon must be a man “highly qualified.”
The Cassiar sails from the wharf across the railway yard Mondays and Thursdays 8 p.m. It’s only a short step from the Gold House and the Terminus and the other hotels, and a big bunch of the boys generally comes down to see the boat off.
You attend a sort of social function. You make a pleasing break in the monotony of drifting up the street to the Terminus and down the street to the Eureka, and having a drink with the crowd in the Columbia bar, and standing drinks to the girls at number so-and-so Dupont Street – the monotony that makes up your holiday in Vancouver. Besides, if you are a woodsman you will see fellow aristocrats who are going north to jobs: you maintain your elaborate knowledge of what is going on in the woods and where every one is; and, further, you know that in many a hotel and logging-camp up the coast new arrivals from town will shortly be mentioning, casual-like: “Jimmy Jones was down to the wharf night before last. Been blowing-her-in in great shape has Jimmy, round them saloons. Guess he’ll be broke and hunting a job in about another week, the pace he’s goin’ now.”
You have informed the Morning Post!
If logging is but the chief among your twenty trades and professions – if you are just the ordinary western logger – still the north-going Cassiar has great interest for you. Even your friend Tennessee, who would hesitate whether to say telegraph operator or carpenter if you asked him his business suddenly – even he may want to keep watch over the way things are going in the logging world.
So you all hang around on the wharf and see who goes on board, and where they’re going to, and what wages they hired on at. And perhaps you’ll help a perfect stranger to get himself and two bottles of whisky (by way of baggage) up the gang-plank; and help throw Mike M‘Curdy into the cargoroom, and his blankets after him.
Then the Cassiar pulls out amid cheers and shouted messages, and you return up town to make a round of the bars, and you laugh once in a while to find some paralysed passenger whom friends had forgotten to put aboard. . . . And so to bed.
The first thing a fellow needs when he hits Vancouver is a clean-up: hair cut, shave, and perhaps a bath. Then he’ll want a new hat for sure. The suit of town clothes that, stuffed into the bottom of a canvas bag, has travelled around with him for weeks or months – sometimes wetted in rowboats, sometimes crumpled in a seat or pillow – the suit may be too shabby. So a fellow will feel the wad of bills in his pocket and decide whether it’s worth getting a new suit or not.
The next thing is to fix on a stopping-place. Some men take a fifty-cent room in a rooming house and feed in the restaurants. The great objection to that is the uncertainty of getting home at night. In boom times I have known men of a romantic disposition who took lodgings in those houses where champagne is kept on the premises and where there is a certain society. But that means frenzied finance, and this time you and I are not going to play the fool and blow in our little stake same as we did last visit to Vancouver.
So a fellow can’t do better than go to a good, respectable hotel where he knows the proprietor and the bar-tenders, and where there are some decent men stopping. Then he knows he will be looked after when he is drunk; and getting drunk, he will not be distressed by spasms of anxiety lest some one should go through his pockets and leave him broke. There are some shady characters in a town like Vancouver, and persons of the under-world.
Of course, the first two days in town a man will get good-and-drunk. That is all right, as any doctor will tell you; that is good for a fellow after hard days and weeks of work in the woods.
But you and I are no drinking men, and we stop there and sober up. We sit round the stove in the hotel and read the news papers, and discuss Roosevelt, and the Trusts, and Socialism, and Japanese immigration; and we tell yarns and talk logs. We sit at the window and watch the street. The hotel bar is in the next room, and we rise once in a while and take a party in to “haveadrink.” The bar-tender is a good fellow, one of the boys: he puts up the drinks himself, and we feel the hospitality of it. We make a genial group. Conversation will be about loggers and logs, of course, but in light anecdotal vein, with loud bursts of laughter. . . .
Now one or two of the friends you meet are on the bust; ceaselessly setting-up the drinks, insisting that everybody drink with them. I am not “drinking” myself: I take a cigar and fade away. But you stay; politeness and good fellowship demand that you should join each wave that goes up to the bar, and when good men are spending money you would be mean not to spend yours too. . . .
Pretty soon you feel the sweet reasonableness of it all. A hard-working man should indemnify himself for past hardships. He owes it to himself to have a hobby of some kind. You indulge a hobby for whisky.
About this time it is as well to hand over your roll of bills to Jimmy Ross, the proprietor. Then you don’t have to bother with money any more: you just wave your hand each time to the bar-tender. He will keep track of what you spend. . . .
Now you are fairly on the bust: friends all round you, good boys all. Some are hard up, and you tell Jimmy to give them five or ten dollars; and “Gimme ten or twenty,” you’ll say, “I want to take a look round the saloons” – which you do with a retinue.
The great point now is never to let yourself get sober. You’ll feel awful sick if you do. By keeping good-and-drunk you keep joyous. “Look bad but feel good” is sound sentiment. Even suppose you were so drunk last night that Bob Doherty knocked the stuffing out of you in the Eureka bar, and you have a rankling feeling that your reputation as a fighting man has suffered somewhat – still, never mind, line up, boys; whisky for mine: let her whoop, and to hell with care! Yah-hurrup and smash the glass!!
If you are “acquainted” with Jimmy Ross – that is to say, if you have blown in one or two cheques before at his place, and if he knows you as a competent woodsman – Jimmy will just reach down in his pocket and lend you fives and tens after your own money is all gone. In this way you can keep on the bust a little longer, and ease off gradually – keeping pace with Jimmy’s growing disinclination to lend. But sooner or later you’ve got to face the fact that the time has come to hunt another job.
There will be some boss loggers in town; you may have been drinking with them. Some of them perhaps will be sobering up and beginning to remember the business that brought them to Vancouver, and to think of their neglected camps up-coast.
Boss loggers generally want men; here are chances for you. Again, Jimmy Ross may be acting as a sort of agent for some of the northern logging-camps: if you’re any good Jimmy may send you up to a camp. Employment offices, of course, are below contempt – they are for men strange to the country, incompetents, labourers, farm hands, and the like.
You make inquiries round the saloons. In the Eureka some one introduces you to Wallace Campbell. He wants a riggin’ slinger: you are a riggin’ slinger. Wallace eyes the bleary wreck you look. Long practice tells him what sort of a man you probably are when you’re in health. He stands the drinks, hires you at four and a half, and that night you find yourself, singing drunk, in the Cassiar’s saloon – on your way north to work.

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Why it's on the list ...
I was working on construction sites in Edmonton when I first read this unsentimental depiction of the logging industry in B.C. The protagonist's struggle to earn his place among hardened men, despite an accent and education that set him apart, reminded me of my first stint in the trade. The logging operator, a mad-eyed driver and condemner of men, resembled one or two steel-spitting foremen from Fort Mac. I've never forgotten one character's cure for hang-over, important when you're due to work at six: drink salt water, pints and pints of it, until you “cough up toe-nails.”
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