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Chapter Eight 


The Banks


            Reid had never seen an old film that was as good as The Razor's Edge. Taylor had insisted he would like it despite the fact that it had been made in 1946. He was learning to listen to Taylor. After the film they went to a bar for a few beers. Reid was thirsty after his cycling and was eager to do something after his bout with Nietzsche and the others.

            "There's the girl from the Princess Court," said Taylor, motioning with his head in the direction of a longhaired girl wearing denims. Reid recognized her from the theatre and waved.  She waved back and Taylor lit a cigarette.

            "We are gentlemen that they seek," said Taylor from behind a halo of smoke.

            "That's what you would call positive thinking."

            "I'm in, you?" Reid straightened his posture. The words of the great artists and thinkers spilled through his mind.

            "Yes," he said. "I'm in."

            "To the Visigoths!" said Taylor, raising his pint glass. "Sköll!" Clinking their glasses together, they drank the marrow of their pints.

            The floor was packed with bodies like sardines, sweaty and exuberant and fuelled by optimism and hope for the future. They danced in a collective beat until the band's second encore, after which the two girls invited Reid and Taylor to their apartment for a "nightcap."

            Movie posters on the wall and at the shelves of videos above the television were all over their messy apartment. Film equipment and a tripod stacked in the corner beside boxes of films.

            "The truest souls in mankind manifest themselves as bankers," said Taylor, leaning back on the couch with Marsha.

            "Bankers?" Heidi said. Reid had trouble suppressing his smile at Taylor's deadpan.

            "Think of a few of the biggies: Beethoven, Van Gogh, Nietzsche; they had to become bankers because they had chartered vast stretches of the uncharted seas of the soul!" Taylor was practically yelling above the music.

            "Bank?" asked Marsha. "Why do you keep saying bank?" She looked at her roommate.

            "Art, I mean. Sorry, did I say bank?"

            "I thought you were talking about banking," she said. "I'm glad you weren't." Marsha moved closer to Taylor on the couch.

            "So what are you guys studying?" Heidi sat on the floor leaning against a shredded chair.

            "English, you?"



            "What about you Reid?" Heidi asked. He wanted to say banking but couldn't bring himself to do it.

            "Commerce," he answered with noted embarrassment.


            "So, have you made any films yet?" asked Taylor, who was sensing possible disaster.

            "I made one for my honours thesis," said Marsha, black eyeliner matching her torn black denims. "I'm working on one now but I can't seem to save the money. The amount of money I have to pay to the bank for my student loans is already killing me."

            "Swamped with student loans, hmmm." Taylor shot a glance at Reid with a glimmer in his eye. "We should call you Swampa."  Heidi didn't find it funny but Marsha and Taylor had a good laugh.

            "As in Marsha? Swampa?" He nodded. "That's funny. I ought to remember that." Marsha reached for a cigarette and Taylor lit it for her.

            "Chivalry is alive and well," he said, smiling. Heidi looked depressed, which de-motivated Reid.

            "I don't know, I can't find a decent paying job in the meantime to even get by." 

            "What about getting a job in the film business in Toronto?" asked Reid, determined to make an effort.

            "I don't want to live in a big city right now."

            "Why not?"

            "I don't want to settle down with all those hidden responsibilities of the rat race.  It's..." she stuttered, looking at Taylor. "It's all a no-win situation." The disc ended and the silence brought a heavy feeling of despair into the room.

            "I agree," said Taylor. "We've inherited a system that doesn't work. Democracy is somehow broken." She reached out to Taylor, making Reid feel even more awkward.

            "We have to fix it then," said Marsha. "Will you fix it for me Taylor?"

            "Sure baby." Smooth as melted butter. "We need a philosopher-king up there on the throne so education will improve and everyone would be better off. No loans, no grief."  Heidi stood up.

            "I'm going to bed," said Heidi. "I'm tired."


            "Yep. Bushed." She sighed. "Goodnight." She walked over to her bedroom and closed the door.

            "Heidi's a little sensitive about the topic of student loans."

            "Why's that?" asked Reid.

            "She decided a year ago that she didn't want to continue being a doctor-"

            "A medical doctor?"

            "Yes. She graduated from medical school last year doing her internship here in Kingston where she found out that she didn't like being a doctor. That was roughly a year ago and she had until the first of the year to reinstate herself as an intern again." Taylor's hands disappeared under Marsha's sweater.

            "And now that it's past?"

            "She's lost her licence."

            "What does that mean?"

            "It means that she would have to go back to medical school if she ever wanted to practice medicine. But I don't think that'll ever happen."

            "What does she want to do?" asked Reid.

            "She doesn't know."

            "She knows she doesn't want to be a doctor," said Taylor, embracing her with unchecked moxie.

            "What do you want to be Swampa?" Was beginning to feel like a third wheel.

            "I don't know. All the funding for the arts is drying up."

            "I should get going," said Reid.

            "Do you want to listen to some more music Taylor?" asked Marsha.

            "Sure. Anything you want baby." Taylor stayed.


Chapter Nine 

The Means is the End


            The night he returned from his Fort Henry ride Reid dreamed that he was walking in some shallow rapids in the swift current of a river with Michelle. She had taken her shoes off but he was afraid of cutting his feet on the rocks so he had kept his shoes on. "Let's cross Reid" she yelled back at him as she waded onwards toward the far bank. At that moment he slipped on some rocks and fell into the water. When he stood up he couldn't find her anywhere. He stood frozen in indecision as to whether or not he should risk being taken by the currents and try to find Michelle or not. Then he woke up with severe dry mouth.

            Later the next day, he sat with Alex in their dining room.

            "How'd you get that?" he asked in a cranky voice.

            "Well," answered Alex, "because of the annual interest on the principal is more because of the increased investment in research and development, and..." Reid stopped listening because at this point he just didn't care about his accounting assignment. He looked at Alex and silently mocked him and his greasy red hair. Closing his textbook in frustration, he grabbed the first section of the newspaper and turned it over to the back page. His stomach tensed when he saw the words it in the top right hand corner.

                        A true artist will let his wife starve,
                        his children go barefoot, his mother
                        drudge for his living at 70, sooner
                        than work at anything but his art.

-        George Bernard Shaw 1856-1950

            Starve. He didn't want to believe it but he did and felt the ghosts of ancient truths rumble in the air. Life as an adjective had its difficulties.

            Every once in a while he and Drake would go for a run together because it gave them a chance to catch up. They were both busy and seldom had time to chat one-on-one without Taylor or Alex being around too. Drake spent most of his time riding Phineas at the farm. Every time they ran together they made an effort to change our route a little bit to explore more streets of Canada's original capital city. They decided to run straight to Lake Ontario and then south along the boardwalk towards the penitentiary. It was windy so waves smashed against the rocks as if the lake had become an ocean.

            "I saw a thing in the paper the other day about the amount of chemicals that are being dumped into the Great Lakes every year," Drake said, pointing to the lake beside them. "You aren't going to believe this: 341,000 tonnes of toxic waste were dumped into the Great Lakes Basin in 1985 alone! Think about that for a second. 341,000 tonnes in one year; not pounds but tonnes! That's only one year! I mean where does it all go?" Reid looked up to where the wide mouth of the St. Lawrence River meets Lake Ontario and pondered the toxicity under the surface.

            "Harsh," said Reid. "Very harsh." Their pace quickened as they ran in silence for a moment along the waterfront. The November wind blew against their bare faces as they ran along the boardwalk.

            "Ten, twenty years of that and you have a wasteland full of chemicals and toxins that can't be good for the human body." Their pace quickened as they ran in silence for a moment along the water's edge.

            "To me it sounds all the same: unaccountable corporations wrecking Nature for shareholders' profit. We've grown up in a world where screwing up the water supply and clear-cutting the land is the norm."

            "Eastman Kodak was responsible for 3,600 tonnes of toxins alone," said Drake, long legs increasing rapidity. While running Drake's speech came in bursts between every couple of breaths.

            "The mammoth chimera rears it ugly head again," he said, a feeling of powerlessness came over him. "No one can stop it. And I hate it when you can't do anything about something that is so wrong. It makes me want to scream." Reid picked-up his pace to keep up as they passed the hospital. "I don't think I even had any perspective anymore."

            "The public is so numbed by the magnitude of the numbers that it loses its significance."             .

            "Factual numbing," Reid added.

            "Yes, factual numbing. People don't seem to notice whether it's 341,000 pounds or tonnes, or for that matter what toxic even means." Drake took a few deep breaths as the chorus of seagulls overhead drowned out his last words. 

            "You're right. What's another million tonnes of toxic waste dumped into Lake Ontario?" Heading towards the marina beside the penitentiary, Reid looked across at Wolfe Island and saw a limestone church perched on the hill.

            "Taylor was telling me that this stretch of water freezes in the winter," said Drake. "And that you can cross the ice if you're daring enough."

            "Are you sure it freezes?"

            "When Taylor's brother was here he crossed it but apparently it's pretty hairy."

            "I don't know. It looks pretty far."

            "He said it was a sort of mark of distinction if you could cross it. You know Taylor, he's in to that kind of stuff."

            "Yeah, he's a bit of an extremist." They both ran and studied the body of water to Wolfe Island for a few moments.

            "If you're up to it we should try it this winter." Reid didn't think it was possible.

            "Sure. If you do it then I'll think about it." Only the sounds of their breath at regular intervals and the cold rubber soles gripping the boardwalk could be heard as the path veered close to the water's edge. Drake let out a short laugh.

            "Remember that Will Durant quote I told you about?"

            "The one about the banks?" said Reid.

            "Yeah. If you remember, I think it goes: Civilization is a stream with banks. The stream is sometimes filled with blood from people killing, stealing, shouting, and doing the things historians usually record; while on the banks, unnoticed, people build homes, make love, raise children, sing songs, write poetry, and even whittle statues. The story of civilization is the story of what happened on the banks. Historians are pessimists because they ignore the banks for the river."

            They ran in silence for a moment.

            "Yes, the banks."

            "Taylor liked the quote so much that he now refers to ‘the arts' as `the banks.' Then he started to get carried away," Drake said, trying to suppress his laughter. "He said `Oliver Stone is an awesome banker' to Alex with a straight face. He didn't understand what Taylor was talking about when he referred to something as `a good bank' or `a cool bank.' The only thing Alex could do was assume that the person was good with their money." They both laughed.

            "That's funny because last night Taylor after the film he said in all earnestness to these two girls we met that he had been off to do some banking. And then he said the film `was only a trust company.'  He said that the novel it was based on was `definitely not a full chartered bank,' despite the fact that the author who had written the book the film was based on was an `international banker' who had been translated into many languages. Taylor had a field day with it." They rounded the corner at the main intersection and headed down to the riverbank trail.

            "You know, I've been thinking about you and your keeping-your-eye-on-the-prize strategy, and I have concluded that I can't agree with it. My conclusion is a pretty simple concept, but then simple is good." The air was crisp under the overcast haze as they ran for a few moments in silence.

            "You mean sticking with commerce?"

            "Yeah, that was how this conclusion came about. I played it through and it doesn't work."

            "And how's that?"

            "Okay, if someone has a goal to become the world's best widget-maker let's say, they would spend their time studying and working hard at becoming the best one they can be. Right?"


            "Conceivably, they could spend thirty or so years of their productive lives trying to achieve their goal but never make it."

            "Never make it?"

            "Or they could make it. The point is what happens when you finally make it to that point? You become the best widget-maker and then what? It's a fleeting moment; reaching your goal is just a sliver of time." As Drake spoke he used his hands to emphasize his points. "Let's say you find out that you're the best widget-maker in the world on your fifty-fifth birthday. You're ecstatic and you drink some beer and celebrate your accomplishment, but inevitably you wake up the next day and then what do you do? After you reach your goal then what?"  Drake was looking at Reid whose eyes were now on the wet ground in front of his feet. He caught Drake's eye.

            "I don't know Draca, what do you do afterwards?" They ran beside the massive cement walls in front of the Kingston Penitentiary.

            "You go work the next day and do the same thing that you have been doing as before. Nothing changes. You have reached your goal, and then you continue what you have been doing before that point in time. See, the amount of time it takes to reach that sliver of time is far greater than the end itself, and therefore the act of reaching has more significance that the point of having reached."

            "So the end doesn't justify the means then?"

            "Right. The trick is that the end doesn't justify the means, rather the means is the end. It's the day to day that matters most. The goal isn't that fleeting moment of reaching the end; the end is ironically in the everyday." Drake looked over to him as they passed the Olympic Harbour, his long legs worked with an even flow of energy that showed an understated coordination.

            "I guess that's what Henry David Thoreau meant when he said `A day is the epitome of a year,'" said Reid.

            "It's a teleological process." Reid didn't know what `teleological' meant and he didn't have the breath to ask.

            "So it's about squeezing as much toothpaste out of the tube of life as you can."

            As they crossed the intersection at the foot of the hill, a bus that had turned left spewed harsh exhaust out of its bowels just as they ran through its wake of fumes. Reid held his breath for a brief moment to try to avoid it. Up the hill there was a misplaced telephone pole on the left side of the sidewalk between the sidewalk and the road so Drake took the lead through the tight spot.  In front of a limestone church called The Good Thief St. Dismas, Reid passed him when he slowed his pace. As Reid pressed on with the top of the hill in sight he couldn't hear the pitter-patter of Drake's shoes. Taking a quick glance behind him and saw Drake kneeling down on one knee on a grassy knoll in front of the spired church. He stopped. At first sight it looked like Drake was throwing up, but his hands were grabbing at his chest.

            "Drake, are you okay?" He ran back to him. Drake had fallen back on the grass and was struggling to breath. He was violently sucking in air as if in a seizure. "Drake! Can you hear me?" His body was completely limp between gasps for breath. He pulled Drake upright to keep his air passage straight to enable easier breathing. Then he had immediate eye contact with a man in the first passing car. When he raised his hand the car stopped in the middle of the road holding up traffic. The driver opened the back door as he hauled Drake by his armpits into the backseat, holding Drake propped up straight so his windpipe was unobstructed. The violent gasps for air grew further apart from a few seconds to four- and soon to ten-second intervals.

            Drake's pallor became dull green, even a shade of blue. His six-foot, four-inch body was fighting to keep alive by the might of contracting muscles to get air in his lungs. The driver passed cars on the shoulder of the road and beeped his horn at every car he passed, his middle-aged wife looking at them with terror in her eyes. She held her hand over her mouth but then turned back to the front to watch her husband drive recklessly on the shoulder, straddling the curb when he had to. For a second Reid thought they were going to crash. He was beeping his horn when they pulled up to the emergency. Immediately hospital personnel appeared outside and opened the car door.

            "What happened?" asked the paramedic.

            "He collapsed when we were running!" They saw Drake's limp body and blue face. With the stretcher already beside the car, he was rushed through the sliding doors. He hadn't breathed for at least a minute.

            Reid stood on the driveway relieved to have the body in the hands of doctors. The driver stood beside the car looking at him through the corner of his eye. He wanted to tell him to leave me alone but there was something in his eyes that was kind and compassionate. Thoughts raced through Reid's mind in jammed confusion

            "What happened son?" The driver's face was blank. "Son?"

            "We were running and he keeled over, then he started to struggle. He couldn't breathe. Then you, and now..." Reid put his fingers through his hair, his forehead still warm from the run. The woman had walked around to the driver's side of the car moving with motherly assertiveness.

            "Come dear," she said, reaching for his arm. "You must be in shock." She gave Reid a hug and he shivered from the cold air blowing off the lake.




Table of Contents

1.     The Student Ghetto
2.     The Living Tree Principle 
3.     Overcoming Neophobia 
4.     Socrates' Big Swinging Ice Pick 
5.     Life As An Adjective 
6.     The Timestealer 
7.     Range of Multiplicity 
8.     The Banks 
9.     The Means is the End 
10.  The White Haired Doctor 
11.  Mortally Wounded 
12.  Visigoth Code of Ethics 
13.  Cognitive Dissonance 
14.  The Chinese Laundry Café 
15.  Catching a Crab 
16.  Sheer Recklessness 
17.  Shattered Glass 
18.  In His Father's Voice 
19.  The Dreamstealer 
20.  The Vine of Resentment 
21.  The Golden Mean 
22.  The Altered Eye Alters All 
23.  Missing the Middle Part 
24.  Anima 
25.  Taylor Not Afraid 
26.  Beyond the Monoperspectival Norm 
27.  The Grip 
28.  Visigoths in Tweed 
29.  The Unseen Hand 
30.  Dislocation 
31.  Pouring Heavens of Valhalla
32.  So Then...       

To reflect the tenor of the narrative,
Clint Mansel's
"Requiem For A Dream"

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