Why, yes. Yes, it is.
Dear Mr./Ms. Asshole,
You’ve no idea how accurate your nametag truly is. There are levels of asshole-iness reached here that most could only dream of.
I imagine some form of this, dear Asshole: You were invited to a downtown Chicago party the night before. You were handed a tag and asked to write your name on it. You decided to be an asshole.
In the wee hours, the party spit you out onto Michigan Avenue, after the late-night clean-up crew had passed by and done its magnificent job, but before the early morning reinforcements arrived. As you and your friends weaved your way down that gorgeous, litter-free street—singing, drenched no doubt in the deluge that left my mom and me soaked to the skin—you decided not to be an asshole any more. You pulled the soggy asshole badge from your shirt and tossed it to the sidewalk. Could you see your identity confirmed for all time as you watched the nametag flutter to the soaking pavement, proclaiming your eternal status as a littering asshole, despite the word no longer appearing on your chest?
My mom—being my mom—said that she’d like to wear the asshole badge that day, but I talked her out of it. Everywhere we’d gone in that city, she’d been feted like a queen. Concierges, servers, hotel reception staff, my writer friend she’d never met, 7-Eleven employees had all treated her as though she was their own mother. I asked her, “Why spoil your reputation in this town?” “I wouldn’t mind being an asshole for a day,” she said.
The shoes in the photo are mine. They’re soaking wet. While Mr. or Ms. Asshole was partying somewhere near our hotel the night before, mom and I were in Greek Town, moving from soaked booth to soaked booth, eating baklava, helping ourselves to the wine as the owners of the booths were too busy hiding in the back avoiding the rain to come pour us the samples we’d bought tickets for. “You have as much as you like!”
Mom and I sat in the front row of a hundred chairs set up for the poor, dripping, Greek pop singer, who—at any moment—we were afraid was going to burst into flames as the water covered the stage and crept up on the power outlets. We were his only audience. We ate waterlogged baklava, rain poured down our backs and puddled under our bums and I sang along to the Greek top-40 hit he was singing, and which I happened to know.
We dragged ourselves back to the hotel late that night to discover that they didn’t have a guest laundry. We dried our clothes and shoes as best we could over the air conditioner, laughed until we were sore as we’d never been that drenched in our lives, and we ventured out the next morning to find that the asshole had struck.
I freely admit to enjoying a piece of well-placed, well-executed litter. I often talk to the unknown artists who regularly paint the beautiful replicas of the Mona Lisa I see on the sides of train cars as they pass over the crossing between me and the liquor store on the wrong side of the tracks in the town near where I go to write. “Nice work!” I tell the artist as the cars shunt by. At other times, I’ll express dismay. “You didn’t try very hard there, did you? That’s an ugly tag, and it’s all one colour. What, was the paint store out of blue? Some other cheerful shade?”
I stood for a long time looking down on the asshole’s nametag. After I’d talked mom out of wearing it on our Chicago Gangsters tour, I debated picking it up and putting it into one of the many garbage cans that line Michigan Avenue. But then I decided: no. Mom and I had had such a magnificent evening and were embarking on another gorgeous day in one of my favourite cities. That tag made our morning. We felt we would be depriving someone else on that busy morning street of the glee and full-on laughter we’d experienced when we saw it. The joy we felt in the certainty that Mr. or Ms. Asshole had no idea of the multi-layered meanings of her/his gesture of tossing that tag into the street.
We walked on, guilt-free. When we returned hours later, the tag was—as we’d expected—gone. No doubt picked up by one of the ubiquitous hard-working men and women whose job it is to keep their heads bent to the sidewalk, stabbing litter as they see it. Or perhaps, some other traveller’s mom stuck it to her shirt and went for deep-dish pizza.
We want you to know, Mr./Ms. Asshole, that we appreciated your thoughtless gesture-turned-art.
Kimmy and Sandy
Kimmy Beach’s fifth book, The Last Temptation of Bond (The University of Alberta Press, 2013), was chosen as one of the best five poetry books of the year on Quill&Quire’s 2013 Readers’ Poll. The book was longlisted for the 2013 Alberta Readers’ Choice Award, and was featured on CBC Radio One’s The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers.
Kimmy’s poetry, fiction, articles, and reviews have appeared in journals across the country and in the UK, and she has read across Canada. She was the 2005 International Guest Poet for the Dead Good Poets Society in Liverpool, UK, where she launched her third book, fake Paul, onstage at the Cavern Club in Mathew Street. Work from fake Paul is anthologized in Newspaper Taxis: Poetry After the Beatles (Seren Press, Wales, 2012. Phil Bowen, Damian Furniss, David Woolley, ed.) and in Window Fishing: the Night We Caught Beatlemania (Hidden Brook Press, second edition 2014. John B. Lee, ed.).
Her second book, Alarum Within: theatre poems, has been adapted as a full-length stage play by both the University of Toronto and the Red Deer College Theatre and Film Studies Programme. Kimmy has served as Writer-In-Residence for the Parkland Regional Library, The Writers’ Guild of Alberta, and The Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild, and has facilitated worshops and retreats for Sage Hill Writing Experience, The Writers’ Guild of Alberta, The Manitoba Writers’ Guild, and The Saskatchewan Writers Guild. Kimmy currently serves as the AB/NWT Representative on the National Council of the League of Canadian Poets.
She’s working on a novella about a giant puppet, and a collection of prose poems featuring 1970s romance comics and This is Tom Jones! (1969-1971). Kimmy holds a First Class Honors Degree in English from the University of Alberta, and lives in Red Deer with her husband, Stu.
She can be found at www.kimmybeach.com and on Twitter @kimmy_beach