15 May Ali Pinkney
Note: I started on this long answer in October 2013 in response to this E-mail (directly below) from Ashley, and edited it regularly for four months, stopped looking at it, then for the last time tonight— now May 2014. I use endnotes for the new and final absorbed stalls after much debate on whether to leave them in so as not to shake the 7-month-old trot of the long wind. Then I thought, Interview what not but an ethnography of phenomena of my?*
What were the things you brought with you in your backpack (presumably) when you went to go meet with Claire [Milbrath] for this shoot?
When unpacking my things for the shoot in Claire’s room, I started to describe their significances and Claire asked me, “Why would you keep that?” (I think it was in response to #14). And for some reason, having these things all photographed together as an exhibit with that question burning in my mind one final time gave me this strong impetus to burn them all in a ceremonial fire on the beach of my cottage when I get the chance to next*. I think you can see that shit* in my eyes in the shoot. Like, me thinking about that the whole time. Maybe I’m just projecting.
ON THE BURNING
Ideally, this ceremonial burning will occur before the snow falls this year. I’m finally learning to drive, but still don’t have my license*, so getting up to the cottage alone takes a bit of savvy planning and it might have to wait until Spring if only because I don’t think people burn shit in the snow. Am I wrong?* Can you have a big ol’ fire in the snow?* Maybe with some accelerants, hey? I was originally worried about setting fire to the plastic products, and wondered how I’d go about destroying them w/ their noxiousness in mind… but then I spoke with my 80 y/o Nanna about the burning, raised my concern over the plastics, and she thought it’d be fine to rip a little ozone in the name of ceremony, so that was enough of a go-ahead for me… It is important to me that these things don’t continue to exist in their current form (even if broken to smithereens) in a landfill somewhere and also that they aren’t enjoyed or owned by anyone else. These objects have to be destroyed by my hands, and my hands only. I may or may not videotape the fire, and keep the tape as a more succinct archive of myself for myself (my life is exorbitantly archived; I have my umbilical cord) or make a video art project out of it because that’s what I do, but I’m debating recording at this point, as even though the film would technically force the objects to take on an entirely different physical form and they would themselves be ash, it would still preserve them in a sense… And, I like, you know, want to obliterate all of it. Except maybe the crab claws. Those are nice. And maybe the jean jackets, too. I could stand to keep those*. The fire has to be at my cottage because the cottage is the sole location of continuity in my life.*
ON THE OBJECTS
The things Claire photographed compose the near comprehensive collection of “precious objects”* I’ve gathered or carted around since living in Montréal (Autumn 2010 through Autumn 2013). In the future, I will call them The Montreal Objects. Most of these things are now up North already at the cottage waiting to be burned. Some of the things are here with me in London, Ontario.* When I moved in here (London), there were OTHER BOXES full of similar collections of “precious objects” from the rest of my history that I had no idea still existed just waiting for me. The fully comprehensive life-long collection is now between just the two locations, which simplifies things for the purpose of the burning, and the inventory list I am curating to ensure that I only burn the things that deserve to be included in the ceremony and throw out the actual trash, which is a surprisingly difficult process because this is trash that I have had in my possession for years, and to decide where to draw the line between “sentimental trash” or “trash-trash” has been blurred by false-preciousness and simple, continual belonging.
With the perspective of time, most of these things have revealed themselves as stupid trinkets that serve only to remind me of entirely trite things that would otherwise’ve inconsequently vanished into the recesses of my memory; or else these things serve as symbolic mementos of highly emotional, mostly negative events. In short, I suppose, these things are a material catalogue of my life’s worth of emotional baggage externalized.
I used to totally qualify the general concept of “externalizing the slime materially,” but not until Claire asked me that question at the onset of the shoot did I realize that my preciouses are extensions of that same “slime” I used to believe in, and only since the shoot do I think I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s all just baggage that I’m tired of. It’s this useless shit that I look at that kind of depresses me, like that crusty old towel we used as a back-drop. That crusty old towel has been in my life since Day 1. For a year it lived a corner of my slimy kitchen on ste-Catherine street. I had it dry-cleaned. I can readily recall images of it around my father’s pelvis at the cottage. I remember when it reeked of mothballs in Timmins, Ontario. I know it on the shelves in the linen closet in Peterborough, Ontario across from the upstairs bathroom between the staircase and my door. I’m totally sick of it and how familiar I am with it as an object and how readily it brings me back to former adaptations of self.
One of the worst of the things in the entire collection is a rabbit doll (aptly named Rabbit) that was given to me when I was a baby that has been in one of those vegetable bags from the grocery store since the sewage flood of 2003 in Peterborough, Ontario during which Rabbit was contaminated. That doll is in that gross old bag in the next room over from me RIGHT NOW and has been inside of that gross old bag for over a decade! It should just not exist anymore!
What’s that thing that writers and editors say to each other, “Kill your darlings?” Yeah. One of the “precious things” that was waiting for me here in London is this beautiful prop fan that I vaguely swear I’ve never seen before in my life. I love it right now because it has no emotional story behind it. I don’t look at it and have to remember a past self or whatever. I’m beginning to sort of hate objects. Maybe this will be a phase, but for real. Maybe I am starting to hate emotional baggage instead of coveting it because I have “real” emotional baggage simply because I’m not a manic teenager anymore, or rather, maybe I still am to an extent, but I have been alive for more than ~10 years and some of the things that I have kept seem seriously insignificant. I also realized a lot of the things I brought to Claire’s all symbolize the same things over and over again in different ways, but that those things also take up space and are burdensome.
It’s like I thought at one point that I won’t have a memory and these things will flood the nostalgia of feelings and experiences back to me, but I actually don’t care if I hold on to those things at this point and that flooding is unwelcome.
When I lived on ste-Catherine street, I half-intentionally let my kitchen slime really build up (I half want to refer you to people for testimonials who saw the slime so you know I don’t mean soap scum). The theory was that I should keep literal slime as a way to keep internal slime externalized and physical so I wouldn’t have to deal with “slimy things” that existed on a cerebral or emotional realm. And then, every now and then when the mood struck me, I’d get all Machinist and bleach everything hard and make the external slime go away and it’d be cathartic. I now think that theory is totally bogus. Or rather, that I’ve changed or am changing. Or like, I no longer need to do that particular song and dance to satisfy whatever that was satisfying for me at the time.
THE MONTREAL OBJECTS
Anyways, the things that I’ve carted around the most and were in Montreal, The Montreal Objects; detritus of my fucking life from 2010-2013, as photographed with me by Milbrath were:
1. Scrappy Jean Jacket in shards that Dad put around Mom’s shoulders when they met (spark of lust that created me in that denim)
2. Lucky Jean Jacket (I am wearing it in some of the photos) that Dad used his allowance to go downtown to stud by his lonesome on the busses in London, Ontario when he was 12.
3. Crusty old towel. This thing must be at least 30 years old. I don’t even want to ask I’m so sick of it.
(I looked down at the floor right now and one of those yellow Greek lamb-bearing men is down there staring up at me like it’s dying/refusing to die)
4. Little Greek Men from Brossard. Jay Winston and I went off the island to go to Taco Bell one day in 2011. Since, Jay has been to all the Taco Bells in the Greater Montreal Area. (Which is a total feat if you didn’t know because there are few and they are hard to get to). I found these little men in the Sally Anne in Brossard after one of our visits to TB that day, and they looked really good and kind of Jungle-80’s with the alarm clock I got at the same time…
5. Crab claws in box. Someone I was a dear friend with had decorated this box for me and moved to Halifax and showed up on my balcony unannounced after getting off a plane with it to give to me in the middle of the night months later, and it’s really quite incredible/intricate/beautiful. We had a falling out. Now we’re okay, but not friends. The crab claws inside are what is really important. I collected those in Kenora when I hitch-hiked to Winnipeg from Montreal with the man I fell head over heels in love with in 2012 and kept them in a Belmont box for a while. They remind me of neglecting the red flags of rational life in the name of love and knowing why anyone would and should do that. The crab claws are Joy.
6. Toy Dog. I’d rather not talk about the significance of Toy Dog. It is battery powered, and if you turn it on, it yaps and moves and its eyes glow. Imagine it on fire.*
7. Those papier-mâché heads, that tiara and that tiger print stuff aren’t even mine. I was staying with my Aunt in Westmount when I went to Claire’s for the photo shoot, and was sent with her Shiva costume in case the mood struck us to play around with it.
8. That wooden box is full of my juiciest trite and traumatic keepsakes that fit inside of it, which will be detailed in the Master Inventory List I am compiling and probably deserve some kind of map-photo of their own but I won’t detail here.
9. This pinstriped smoking jacket I found at Renaissance during the most desperate stage of my life, which was quite recent*. It was my last 7$ (which then meant not eating for a couple of days), and I convinced myself I had to have it for my image of myself as a writer. It like, is sort of slumpy and doesn’t fit properly, but it has a satin interior and for some reason I adore it.
10. Cheese Dog. Cheese Dog is the perfect “Mission statement” of my writing. I painted Cheese Dog by accident while intending to paint a giant (multi-metre length) cheetah. And then he came out.
11. Lucky red underwear and metallic red bra. Both from an old dance costume, circa age 10. We were “Bollywood Ballerinas” and had coin skirts to shake around while we sashayed around. I used to draw abs on all of us before we went on stage with brown eye shadow because our child stomachs were exposed in the skimpy costume. The faux-abs were super convincing in the stage light and I’d get requests to do it for people before their solos, etc.
12. I got this woodpecker thing the first time I went to the professional theatre. For a while I wanted to be an actor. We saw Anne of Green Gables. It’s so decrepit that the beak doesn’t touch the pole any more. I brought it to Montréal to race Andy Szymanski’s woodpecker thing, which has a handsome red feather and totally blew mine out of the water.
13. I am allergic to this fancy pearled collar and bought it at the church my family goes to in Montréal. I was wearing it the first time I ever did cocaine.
14. Ziplock bag that is full of papers that have bummed me out in the past (Ziplock bag not pictured, but papers are). Includes: Concert tickets to cancelled show, notice I received when kicked out of Energié Cardio for wearing a tank top, sad letter from ex-boyfriend in which he enclosed all of the money he had to pay me back for something he didn’t need to that I used to go to a Kylie Minogue concert.
15. This is my name letter and it fell to the ground from that BMW dealer beside the Julep’s sign while I was walking by it one night.
* ~Yoda/~Cookie Monster speak is usual and taken straightforwardly on my Mother’s side.
* Still pending
* I was drinking a lot of sherry in October and was much more profane or vulgar in my general demeanor than I am in May.
* I stopped trying to learn to drive because it is fucking terrifying and the polar vortex happened shortly after I wrote this.
* There was a big Canadian archive book burning last December and it totally answered my question.
* And the umbilical cord, because it is my Mother’s favourite thing.
* Having officially left and then returned to Montréal, Montréal qualifies as a place of continuity for me now too. Which is quite nice to recognize here.
* Categorically distinct from “favourite objects.”
* I have been back in MTL for ¼ of a year. For posterity, I’ll have to refer to The Montreal Objects maybe a bit more specifically because I haven’t exactly kicked my habit, though my attitude still reflects that of this interview.
* I have already destroyed Toy Dog, and sometimes I sorely regret doing so because I loved it. Its remains are now in a zip lock bag for purposes of the burning.