Yes, the one and only Marc Bell and I say, “Enough with this silliness already.” Over the past two months I’ve been writing different posts under different identities as text versions of a pop-up graphic novel that I’m working on. “Old Style Camera Fandango” begins with the story of an underground Barbie Doll dealer. When you turn the page another story pops out about a Barbie Doll collector and then within that pop up, there’s a page that you can turn to reveal another pop up story and so on and so forth. Yes, it’s complicated and convoluted – I’m getting a headache just describing it – but once all the stories are revealed and read, the entire book resembles an old style camera with today’s story as the lens. 

Won’t Get Stymied Again

“It’s like drilling for a rainbow or an iceberg in the sun.”
                                                               Robyn Hitchcock

  I moved into 356 Shrimpy Streeet without expecting much. I was in a new city but I’d heard that everyone was a snob and it would take at least a year for anyone to have a beer with me. Unfortunately, all the bars, crowded along one downtown street, were fake Irish style pubs with clean floors and gussied up servers so I didn’t really have that much to look forward to. My bachelor apartment was clean enough though with lots of hot water and a fridge that didn’t freeze my lettuce.
    Down the street from where I lived there was a strange building that reminded me of a church. Or at least part of a church. Come to think of it, that building reminded me of an addition to a church that I saw in my hometown of London, Ontario. It looked like a well built shanty. A big block of rooms to hold lots of people. The shanty on Shrimpy Street had a sign out most nights: Paul. It was a tiny sandwich board with the name Paul written out across it.  On my way to get the bus I passed it a couple of times and whenever it was out there was a room on the second floor with a light on. I saw the back of somebody’s head through the window. I felt like a creep looking in but then after the third of fourth time I figured this looky-loo business was set up.  “Paul” was the guy seated at the table and he wanted people to see him. Maybe, he wanted people to come in. That was a theory I had. 
   My job at the hot-dog stand in Stanley Park was okay but I only had a couple coworkers who I almost never saw. I’d flown out across Canada to serve up hot-dogs to tourists in an incredible setting but most nights I spent watching European movies at home. I was starting to wonder if maybe I’d flown in the wrong direction. 
     One night while walking home I passed the House of Paul and the sandwich board was out and the head was in the lighted window and I thought to myself: Fuck it. I’m going to go into that room and see what he has to say. Maybe he has a beer waiting for me. Maybe this is the exciting side to this city just waiting to happen. The one thought that niggled in the back of my mind was the fear that he was peddling some kind of religion. Maybe there would be free snacks. 
    The door – as always – was wide open and I stepped in with a loud Hello.
    “Come on up,” I heard from the top of the shag-rugged stairs. The building smelt musty and my feet sunk into every step as I walked up towards another open door. I felt like I was trampling on wigs from the seventies. Wigs used to sop up beer spills. No maybe it wasn’t that gross but it wasn’t a pleasant. Although come to think of it, compared to the slickness of the rest of the city it was kind of refreshing. Different for sure.
    At the top of the stairs was the room which was pretty much how I’d imagined it. A long table with a bunch of empty chairs along it and one guy with his head hanging over a bunch of papers. 
   “Look at this,” he said as he screeched his metal chair back to greet me.  He sat perfectly still in his chair with his back held up straight. Suddenly his leg jerked like it had been hit under the knee with a doctor’s toy hammer. It wasn’t conscious. I could see that. 
    “Isn’t that something ?”
     I nodded yes and felt a little disappointment. My hopes weren’t too high so they didn’t have too far to crash.
    “You know how I do it ?”
     I nodded no.
     He fanned the pieces of paper out across the table so that they were all visible. There were detailed drawings of some complicated contraption that started with a toilet and led – through a series of pulleys and levers and gears that became smaller and smaller and smaller – to a sketch of a tiny device in his knee. 
    “When I flush my toilet in the morning, the displacement of the water at the back will trigger this ball to roll down this gulley and then…” he spent at least ten minutes explaining his creation which finally ended with the sound of the screeching chair combined with all the other potential energy from all the other balls and pulleys to result in a charge that knocked his knee. He had created a device that combined and explained the relationship between classical Newtonian mechanics and quantum physics. It was kind of interesting but the results just didn’t seem that spectacular.
   And I found myself looking out the window, wondering what was wrong with this city, wondering if it was time to look into airfares elsewhere. 
    “Paul” stood up to explain his theories even more emphatically. I stepped back to lean on a chair. It screeched and his knee kicked out from beneath him. He fell back into his chair.
   That was kind of funny though.