#2: A Road trip that follows the beatnik movement across the country

By Nicolas Vergara

The first time that Vivian read something about gangs in Toronto was Christmas 2010, in Ireland, when she was nineteen years old and studying English Literature. The gang in question was MS-42 and its name appears in a draw that she found in one book at Temple Bar Book Market.  The name of the gang was written in a bookmark, and the complete sentence said Peace for MS-42 or something related to pigeons. In one of its corners, the bookmark also said Toronto, 2007, and something about donations or charity. 

She google the gang and found this:

In the middle of November, David Dang, nineteen, was kidnapped on his way out of a Blue Jays game. Although the street was far from deserted, there were no witnesses, except for five David’s classmates, who saw him head to a Tesla car, where a person in sunglasses was waiting for him. That afternoon, David didn’t come home and his parents filed a police report few hours later, after they had called few of his friends. When he was found, two days later, his body shows unmistakable signs of strangulation. A Greek immigrant found his body near Thomas Merton School. The greek was accused of the homicide and spent one week in a cell, at the end of which he was released. When he got out he was a broken man. He was asking for his son, and a month later they left together Canada, via Niagara, to the United States. The police report said that the Murder was made in the name of M-42.  In January 2009, five members of M-42 gang were arrested. they were accused of several murders committed after Davi’s one. 

From that day on, she became an enthusiastic follower of that gang, and set out on a quest to find more information about them. For years, she thought that Canada was a peaceful place, but she realized that was just ideology —as her professor loves to say—.  She told this story to Andres, one day that they were having a picnic. That day, they were also doing a map about On the road.  

The map looks like this one:

ON THE ROAD MAP

Poet Nicolás Vergara (Santiago de Chile, 1981), lives and works in Toronto. 

London, Ontario. Paris, Texas

By Nicolas Vergara

Many years ago, Andres watched the movie Paris, Texas. Before that, when he was 13, in a Library in Serbia, he read these wise words: good novels are impossible to summarize. The words came from W.H. Auden, but they could belong perfectly to a German Literary Critic or an English one in the 80s, for it sounded wistful and convincing.  Andres, like many people from his generation, believes that you can easily apply ideas that come from literature to movies; and when he watched Paris, Texas, he decided that that was a movie impossible to summarize, and then he decided it was an amazing movie.

Four years ago, he tried to write a story about Paris, Texas. The story began in York University. In the story, Wim Wenders was smoking a cigarette at the main entrance of the University. A young woman stopped by him and asked if he could sell her a cigarette. He offered one, and then she started to tell him why she was so sad and frustrated about a recent exam that she couldn't pass. Wenders gave her some advice, based on his experience as a filmmaker. As a consequence of that, she told him that she went to the same school as Justin Beber, and even she was about to go on a date with him, but that didn't happen because her mother asked her —that night, that unlucky night— to take care of her little brother. 

He had other scenes in mind that he didn't get around to writing. Mainly meeting and visiting, and one that happens in London, Ontario. In London, Wenders was walking by the highways that go to Detroit. Nobody knows how the filmmaker got there, and how he was able to avoid the Grizzly bears, which everybody knows are more frequent than snowy days in that area. He was walking, and in a charging station for electric cars, he found a Tim Hortons. He felt asleep at one of the tables. The manager —a Nepali guy tired of being called Indian— tried unsuccessfully to wake him up. He decided to call the police. 

The police found Wenders’ brother address and they called him. Wenders’ brother was living in Yukon, where he had a publicity company for road advertising. He lived with his wife and a child. He drove his car to find Wenders. When they finally got together, Wenders’ brothers asked:

—Where have you been these last 15 years? I’ve been raising your child since then. 

The filmmaker seemed confused, and he was just able to reply: 

I need to go to London, Ontario.

Poet Nicolás Vergara (Santiago de Chile, 1981), lives and works in Toronto. 

FINDING A JOB LOOKING AFTER HORSES

By Nicolas Vergara

This story is very simple, although it could have been very complicated. Also, it is incomplete, because stories like this doesn't have an ending. It was afternoon in Eugene, Oregon, and it had been raining all day. The rain stopped and almost immediately, it started to smell like very deep frozen seaweed which smitten(?) Andres and Vivian with feeling of utter happiness.

The barn was closer to the mountains. The job advertising appeared in Craigslist, and they decided to apply because they also offer a place for living.

There are at least three different ways of taking care of an animal, but my favorite —Vivian said—it’s the one that you rescue an animal from dead or at least from an ominous life. I’ll give an example, Vivian said, and here we have the example:

You find a baby raccoon by itself in the forest. You take it with you, with the same feeling that inspire some parents towards adopting a child from the third world. You give it a better life at your home. If you are lucky, the animal won’t get sick or won’t be killed by another animal. Nature has always been a school of the uncertain, and bad luck in nature is one of the way that human drama enhances it. The rest is Disneyland (including, for sure, ecology).

The horse was as tall as a basketball player and as white as a wise old man. It was running in circles, leashed to a big stick. There was also a woman. She was saying or broadcasting something that was obviously addressed to the horse. If the aim of her work was making the horse run, she was successful. The barn was humid and its high roof made it look like a streetcar storage. 

Ninety days in one country is enough time just for tourism or journalism (who are, at the end, professional tourist or writers). They should wait for the same amount of time for being banished from the U.S. because the didn't get married when they should have. Then ask for refugee visa in Canada, that was the plan.

What happen if we get attached to the horses? In the scale of separation, it is easier leaving a horse than a dog or a cat, unless you were a horse riding fighter or a peasant. And our couple was just a couple trying to stay in Canada.

Poet Nicolás Vergara (Santiago de Chile, 1981), lives and works in Toronto. 

WINTER BLUES #2

By Nicolas Vergara

Speaking about days, the only reason for writing 90 days instead of 93 or 91 (if those days happen in a leap-year) is the same one that supports prices such as $3.99. Deadlines and sales have something in common —Andres thought— and also those kinds of numbers that physics and real scientists know are pale, dark and unstable. 

The closest city from the United States border was Buffalo. Andres and Vivian had done that trip many times before. However, for Andres the number and dimension of the electric stations that were visible everywhere was always something new. A long time ago, in his native country Serbia, one of his friends said that it was possible to measure the country´s economy just by considering its energy supply. When he made the trip between Toronto and Buffalo for the first time, he also wondered if the shape of the electric stations —which could easily be confused with UFO remains -  could say something else about Canada. So many cables were crossing the river that separate the United States and Canada, so many that they made him think the countries were trying to show how many cables could be extended between them, and how proud they felt about that.

When they got to the border, Vivian asked for the fiancé visa. The border official gave her a paper for signing, which has a big blue eagle at the center.  

The eagle has the same pose as a fly resting on a window. 

Andres signed it and waited for his passport back. The official gave him the passport and theyheaded to the bus. They had been planning what they would do during these 90 days in the U.S. Here is the list with potential activities:

  1. Visiting Chicago and verifying how much better it is than NYC
  2. A Road trip that follows the beatnik movement across the country
  3. Going to one of the famous bridges in San Francisco and spitting
  4. Finding a job looking after horses
  5. Going to a gospel church and trying to became friends with the community and—why not— become part of the chorus
  6. Visiting the publisher of magazines addressed to veterans and have a networking meeting with the journalists there. 
  7. Developing an international art performance between London, Ontario and Paris, Texas.

To be continued

Poet Nicolás Vergara (Santiago de Chile, 1981), lives and works in Toronto. 

winter blues

By Nicolas Vergara

This story is about two people. Two adults, Vivian and Andres, and other adults whose names are on a badge. The first two adults were partners. The other adults were border officers. The story is about, in a way, North America in general.

Andres and Vivian were living in Toronto. Vivian was a Ph.D student. Andres was a successful writer and consultant who went to Canada for learning English. Why English? Because ten years ago, his favorite poets were English writers (or at least, people that were using English as a way of expression). He loves French and German poets too, especially the ones that were writing in the 1940-50s, but during that time —despite the technological advances—, Europe was looking so far away. 

After three years, they became common law. Before that, Vivian got a Ph.D in English literature, Andrés’s mother passed away and they traveled together to Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Patagonia, Chile and the United States. Officially, their home was in Canada, in a basement shared with a few bugs in summer, which probably disappeared in winter because of the cold. 

The bugs and the cold have names. The potato bug was named Ramiro. The centipede was called Frederic. Every family has its preferences and this was not an exception: the appearance of Ramiro was always celebrated but the reaction that Frederic provoked was controversial. Vivian says Frederic was gross, what happens if it climbs the bed. Andres agreed in part with her, elaborating an explanation about how centipedes don't like beds, but that was never satisfactory enough to Vivian. Frederic made Andres think of the kind of bugs that you can find under the soil. Could my mother be eaten by something like Frederic? He thought, but luckily those kinds of ideas disappear quickly from his mind.

Technically, the cold doesn't have a name. It has adjectives. The cold in a basement is kind of a strange animal that is always changing. One day you experience his gaze like a friendly pet, other days the cold is something threatening, which you feel lucky is in a cage. Sometimes, the cold is resting in one of the corners, and you can barely notice that it is there. You think it must be liberated, because Zoos aren’t good places for animals, no matter the sustainability or the noble aims that humans could have. The day that Vivian and Andres spoke about the immigration process, the cold was an animal that was walking from side to side, aimless. Although, the warmness of their bodies was a spring animal. 

The plan was the following: they will get the fiancé’s visa in the United States, break one of its conditions and then ask for a refugee’ visa in Canada. The fiancé’s visa says this: “you have 90 days to get married, otherwise you will be expelled from the country”.

To be continued…

Poet Nicolás Vergara (Santiago de Chile, 1981), lives and works in Toronto. 

AFRICAN COWS

By Nicolas Vergara

Have you ever gazed at a cow for more than five minutes? A friend asked me ten years ago, and since then I have been perplexed about those animals, that most people identify with black & white colours and a farm. They are slow, peaceful and pensive animals, I used to think, after my first encounter with African cows. What is an African Cow? It’s the kind of cow that can manage very well high temperatures and a lack of water. If cows could drive a car, these kinds of cows would be riding camels. How do these animals survive? That is a frequent question between camels and tourists.

I saw them for the first time in Costa Rica. At first, they captured my attention just in the way of my farmer’s interest (which I developed after years of observing cows), but besides the discovery of a new species in my mind, there wasn't anything new about them.  I was visiting Costa Rica as a snowbird, and my type of bird was a Robin and the snow was just the snow: too much snow. 

One morning, I was invited to do a hiking trip with a group of germans. The idea was to travel to a place well known for the chance to see animals. The place also had a few small and hidden beaches, where we were supposed to end our hiking. It sounds like a good Idea, I said to my partner, and she agreed. 

When we realized that we had been walking for more than 30 minutes, my partner and I had a little conversation about the aim of the trip. Germans love nature, we knew that, and we also knew that when Marc —my german brother-in-law— called a trip a “very easy one” or “not tiring at all” you should take his words as a statement from one that wakes up every day at four am for not losing the opportunity to ride his bike.  We were tired and thirsty watching how the group of germans were leaving us behind, when suddenly a group of cows started to gaze at us. They were in line, with their big ears framing their black deep eyes. This is weird for a cow, we thought, and we didn't give it more attention. I had to recognize that it is a little bit creepy walking through an aisle where on one side was a wall made by cows and the other side was a landscape where other cows were coming to us. 

Before the cows started to make a circle, running around us, I thought that my partner could be feeling a little bit scared and I went closer to her. I was scared too, and we both started to analyze the situation, looking for a way to escape (the river, no, full of crocodiles; climbing a tree, no, full of poisonous snakes). When the cows started to make a circle around us, a german woman started to clap and move her arms. The result: the cows broke the circle and let us go.  The woman told us that she grew up in the countryside of Germany, and that was the reason that she knew how to manage cows. Have you ever gazed at a cow? She asked me, —No, I answered—, while I was thinking about the kind of people that came up with these kinds of questions. 

Poet Nicolás Vergara (Santiago de Chile, 1981), lives and works in Toronto.