If I’m into a book, I let it know.
And it reads my cues. It plays off of my narrative. It follows my arch.
If it doesn’t, we fall out of it.
An embarrassing preamble to mention of Naomi Klein’s ‘No Logo’ – the book with which I enjoyed the most mutuality. The most synchronicity.
In 2009, I was on a far-flung Papuan beach some 14 thousand kilometres from the western-most point of my home country of Canada.
Life keeps on and on long after the plot is through, so – often we get to the end of one story and start reading backwards from the last page as if there were nothing better to do.
From that beach on Papua, I rewound – the last year and a half of my life in Indonesia. Firstly, I had to return to the capital city of Jakarta. I had to repack the things I’d unpacked. I had to say goodbye to friends I’d said hello to a year and a half ago. I had to go to the office and reintroduce myself to joblessness. Then, back on the plane, back to my country, back to my time-zone.
Insert new title page. Fresh chapter. New reading.
I took a job at a guerilla marketing agency in Toronto’s Liberty Village – which is where the author of ‘No Logo’ was residing at the time. An entire district of abandoned factories-cum-swank-apartments (like The Candy Factory Lofts); Klein explained that there was once a stronger culture here.
People would spend Sundays at open-air cafes on the ground floor while expert tailors would shop their wardrobes. Needed a custom job? A tailor would sketch it out for you and could do alterations – while you sipped your coffee.
Where did this culture go? Exactly where I’d spent the last year-and-a-half of my life: Jakarta, Indonesia – to save on the cost of labour. Yep, so much of our cheap winter accessories are put together on the opposite side of the world in temperatures of +30 Celsius. (Asian hipsters sport some of it as their lives unfold beneath the swinging mouths of air-conditioners in malls, clubs, and Bluebird Taxis).
Driving around in a Ford F150 around Toronto each day, my job was to report and replace vandalized advertisements. This was when I came to Naomi Klein’s promotion for adbusting, or artistic vandalism to reclaim the streets. The creative commons.
Then came a campaign that used street art in its poster campaign. Naomi Klein clarified that adbusting was adopted by advertisers in the depression era when it had begun to gain momentum. Adbusting was used in branding – against its will.
I and Klein were jousting. She was always a step ahead of me.
When I came across a billboard drilled with holes stuffed with mini evergreens and plants, she told me about The Guerilla Gardeners. When I came across a telephone pole clothed in a hand-knit, yarn sweater, she told me about The Yarn Bombers.
Whenever I explored a new area of the city, Klein was watching me down an alleyway. She would bite her tongue until my lunch break and then explain the significance of where I’d been. It was eerie. I was captive.
Burning a barrel of leaves in my grandfather’s garden in Jedburough, Scotland, I was reading aloud to my mom from Bill Bryson’s ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’. Bryson was telling us about Hutton’s unconformity: two layers of stone – one vertical the other horizontal – that sparked a Scottish geologist’s imagination. The world would have to be millions of years old for these rocks to have stacked on each other like that, he thought. This observation turned the focus earth-wards to the stones, resulting in an approximate age of the earth.
Called in for tea, there was a man in my grandfather’s living room who began, coincidentally, to talk about geology in Scotland, Hutton, and Hutton’s unconformity.
“Oh yes, we know all about that,” we said.
“Oh so you’ve been for a walk down to see the stones then?” said the man. “They’re only a kilometre away.”