Book Review: Aubrey McKee by Alex Pugsley

Aubrey McKee
Alex Pugsley

This collection of stories about a well-to-do kid from Halifax’s South End is apparently meant to be the first in a 5-part fictionalized autobiographical series. This book covers Aubrey’s childhood and teenage years in the 70s and 80s, and includes a cast of characters that range from his parents’ friends to drug-dealing ruffians from the poorer parts of town, to a collection of eccentrics and misfits who are the early adopters of Halifax’s vibrant punk music scene in the early 80s. But Aubrey’s life is pretty insular and posh. Private school, tennis lessons, and yacht clubs all play a role in his development and it’s only when another character tells him off and points out that his life is nothing at all like that of other Halifax youth (a refreshing twist, because I wasn’t sure the author actually had that self-awareness up to that point and was beginning to think he might be an awful jerk), that it became clear that somebody had the great good sense to consider Aubrey a poncy twat, and to call him on it.

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There’s a Hole in the Bucket (List), Dear Liza

I’ve never been a bucket list kind of person. Which is weird, because I’m a list person. “Girl of 100 Lists” is one of my favourite Go-Gos songs because it feels as if it was written just for me. But the “bucket” list, that big, big list of dreams, goals and aspirations, has never appealed to me. It feels too grand, too fantastical, especially when it’s full of things that just don’t seem realistic. My lists are, if nothing else, pragmatic.

For instance, my imaginary bucket list would include jumping out of a plane. I would love to do this. I would never do this.

My imaginary bucket list would include travel to lots of places, but pragmatic me, for reasons both environmental and personal, is fairly anti-travel. I’m sure we were promised Star Trek-style transporters by now, weren’t we? Until those are available, I’m happy to stay home.

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The Best Restaurant

Let me tell you about the best restaurant I’ve been to lately…

Nestled in a corner of Parkdale, the room is pale green with a wall covered in black and white photos of (mostly weird) celebrities. The table is large and round, glossy black with red and orange accessories. Seating is straight-backed parsons chairs; super-comfortable with lots of back support, and covered in slipcovers that evoke a mid-century lounge. The lighting is bright but not glaring, and nobody EVER turns down the lights to near-darkness just as you’ve started to read the menu. The soundtrack on the stereo is whatever you want it to be, but mostly leans to bebop jazz or Klezmer music at brunch. Nobody, diners or staff, wears perfume, cologne, or bad aftershave. Service can be a bit haphazard, but is warm and charming, and nobody ever corrects you when you mispronounce the name of the wine, or uses their pinky finger to point out the various elements of a dish while you sit impatiently waiting for them to shut up and go away so you can eat already. The linens are well-washed cotton napkins, not old tea towels that shed all over your outfit. The menu changes daily, and ranges from super-simple to multi-course high end fare, offered at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Brunch is served on weekends. There’s only one table so your meal is never interrupted by other guests, and there’s no worry about social distancing.

Welcome to my dining room, which I’ve discovered that I prefer over pretty much any restaurant I’ve ever been to…

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We Wish You a Merry Chris-Mask

Five months, two weeks, three days… Louis Prima would have been Covid-ready, singing his way through this mess, Keely Smith by his side. Because how the projected time frame for this thing has chanced since March.

Now, a reasonable person would have been skeptical back then when our governments told us it would all be over in three weeks. We knew then, even if we were being told different, that this thing would take months to get under control.

And when the timeline extended to months, we all went, yeah, we knew that, and figured (optimistically) that it would be done by Christmas.

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Side Effects of Mask Use — Can Potentially Make Wearer Really, Really Mean

A few days ago, a video surfaced of a woman in a California location of Trader Joe’s, being confronted by customers and staff for not having a mask on.

Los Angeles County has had a hardcore mandatory mask bylaw in place since May 15th; masks are required by all persons outside of their homes. Exemptions are in place for children under 2 and people unable to wear a mask due to health issues.

The video starts as the woman is yelling at a crowd of people that she has health issues and her doctor has advised her to not wear a mask. The crowd seems not to believe her. She throws down her basket as staff escort her from the store.

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The Rain Makes Pain, It’s Not Just in the Brain

Nobody is ever as happy to see rain as I am. Rain generally means that relief is in reach, that the pain and anguish I’ve been feeling for hours, sometimes days, is about to come to an end. Rolled up in a ball, too stiff, or bloated, or sad to move, the rain is a beacon of hope.

Millions of people suffer from weather-related pain. It’s usually existing chronic pain, or old injuries that flare up when the weather gets bad, although sometimes I get scrunched up in areas where I’ve never had injuries. So tight that stretching does nothing, heating pads are mostly useless, all I can do is sit and wait and ride it out.

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Pride Vignettes — Willis

“Oh, it’s THAT day of the year again,” Willis opined to Gerald as they settled into a double seat on the streetcar. “Careful the seat isn’t already covered in glitter and who knows what else.

“I mean, really, what must their parents think? This… lifestyle. SUCH an embarrassment. I can’t imagine. How horrible it must be for them. To have your children grow up to be like… this…” Willis gestured widely at the streetcar’s interior, indicating twenty or so people dressed in sparkly clothing, feather boas, and rainbow-themed shirts, his voice full of disdain and intentionally loud enough to be heard.

People turned away, annoyed and disgusted, intent on ignoring Willis and his speechifying.

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Pride Vignettes — Beth

Tabea Blumenschein by Ulrike Ottinger

Stumbling into the darkened bedroom she shared with her younger sister, Beth turned on a table lamp and gasped in shock. It was one of the ‘beauties’. Right there in her sister Alice’s bed. Not just one of them, in fact, but ‘her’ beauty, the girl Beth had been fascinated with for months, ever since the young woman had started showing up at Rumours, the town’s only gay bar, where Beth worked the door.

“What the fuck?!” Beth muttered, leaning in to get a closer look at the girl’s long eyelashes resting on her alabaster cheek.

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Pride Vignettes — Katie

The place looked the same, Katie thought to herself as she exited the bus from New York. Ten years away and Toronto looked exactly the same. Okay, sure, there were more tall condos and the stores were not the same ones that had been here when she’d left, but overall, it was the same dull, not especially exciting, city that she’d fled.

Or maybe, Katie realized, it was she who had changed so much, and her old hometown just couldn’t keep up.

She caught a streetcar to her Aunt Paula’s house. She hadn’t seen any of her family since her mother’s funeral three years previous, where, against her better judgment, she’d dressed in the only men’s clothing she still owned, a conservative black suit kept specifically for the occasion, so as not to upset anyone by her appearance. It went against her principles, but it had been her mother’s last request of her. Upon returning home she had taken scissors to the suit and then also set it aflame, just for good measure.

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Pride Vignettes — Heather

Heather and Mattie walked the few blocks to the street party at a quick pace. Heather hadn’t bothered to dress up especially, knowing that Mattie was always the subject of any attention when they were out anywhere together. Once they entered the throng of people, all eyes, and often hands, would be on Mattie. Heather was okay with this. She was content to let Mattie be the draw, and to bask in the glory that surrounded her, knowing that she could take the opportunity to engage people once they approached to see her beautiful companion.

They reached the crowds of Church Street and were immediately an attraction.

“Oh my god! That dog is huge! Lady, can I pat your dog?”

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