A history of failed experiments, plus donkeys and donuts

July 17 2016

When I was eight years old, I attempted to manufacture and bottle my own perfumes at home, using a variety of plants and flowers, random bathroom products, and a few flavored sodas. My family politely (and rightly) declined to make use of them.

At the age of twenty-three, I somehow got separated from my partner in the Holyoke Mall parking lot. Lacking a writing implement, I used what I could find in my car to leave him a message. The resulting letters in thread, “STAY HERE” were so poorly-sewn into scrap paper as to be illegible.

A few years later, my heroic attempt to dye my living room rug using turmeric and a vacuum steam-cleaner went awry when I realized the fibers were synthetic and therefore impermeable to the solution.

After these failures, I didn’t even attempt to build my design for a manually-operated ceiling fan. My hands simply can’t seem to properly realize the visions I have in my head.

A few stray thoughts:

-the best doughnuts to be had in Montréal, or perhaps the entire world, can be found at Sabor Latino on Rue Bélanger. Look behind the cash register for the bakery trays to find perfect, ring-shaped yeasted doughnuts sprinkled with vanilla sugar.

-The best book recommendation I’ve ever received was for A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander. I deeply want to thank the person who introduced me to the book, but I subsequently had to lay him off from his job and thanking him now would somehow feel cheeky.

-I can’t begin to explain why, or perhaps don’t even know why, but one of my favorite papers is “Two theories of home heat control” by Willett Kempton (1986).

-I recently shocked myself climbing over an electric fence to see some donkeys in France. It was still worth it. Do yourself a favor and check out Edward Field’s poem “Donkeys” and visit the Primrose Donkey Sanctuary in Ontario, where they have chandeliers in the barn for the animals.

-And why not a poem to end things. As a brooding high school student I was disappointed that my English teacher assigned me the seemingly colorless and simple William Stafford to study instead of, say, Willliam Burroughs or Amiri Baraka. I am forever grateful for his decision.

An Archival Print by William Stafford

God snaps your picture: don’t look away —

this room right now, your face tilted

exactly as it is before you can think

or control it. Go ahead, let it betray

all the secret emergencies and still hold

that partial disguise you call your character.

Even you lip, they say, the way it curves

or doesn’t, or can’t decide, will deliver

bales of evidence. The camera, wide open,

stands ready; the exposure if thirty-five years

or so — after that you have become

whatever the veneer is, all the way through.

Now you want to explain. Your mother

was a certain — how to express it? — influence.

Yes. And your father, whatever he was,

you couldn’t change that. No. And your town

of course had its limits. Go on, keep talking:

Hold it. Don’t Move. That’s you forever.

Michael Brigham
[email protected]
Vancouver BC

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