The Histamine Family

January 2, 2022

(Dedicated to company men living in company towns)

1972 Presentation : 

I’m visiting the house at the top of my street – Steven Leblanc’s house – working on a Geography presentation for our Grade Five Social Studies class. Steven was born on the exact same day as me of the same year, but this is the first time that I’m allowed to hang out with him. His family have a lot more money than my family, and their car is a top-of-the-line model with landau roof and opera lamps.

When I enter Steven’s house with a drippy nose from being out in the cold, Mrs. Leblanc immediately offers me an antihistamine. She has a huge, nervous smile on her face as she holds out a box of colorful capsules. I reply to her with what Steven told me to say – I lie, telling her that I had already taken an antihistamine at my own house a bit earlier. She smiles and leaves us alone after that.

Steven says that it’s important not to refuse antihistamines at his house, unless you’ve already just taken one. If you refuse with no excuse, Mrs. Leblanc will be hurt, and will later tell her husband that you hate antihistamines and that maybe you should be barred from the house.

Most people on my street call the Leblanc’s the Histamine family when they’re not around. When we were little kids, we used to color our coloring-book houses yellow and print “the Histamine‘s” on the mailbox. This was always good for a few cheap laughs.

They’re called the Histamines because of the way Mr. Leblanc makes his money. The company that he works for – and the company that he keeps. As he says himself, he’s “in antihistamines.”

He fell into antihistamines before he was even married to my neighbor’s mother. See, Mr. Leblanc’s cousin Sol Leblanc patented Piperoxan – the first antihistamine – in the 1930s. And when cousin Sol died super-rich (but at a young age) from medicine-related complications, Mr. Leblanc inherited enough patent royalties to live comfortably forever in his inherited yellow mansion at the top of the hill.

But because of his extreme and incurable gambling addiction, he took on a well-paying role at a pharmaceutical corporation, and spends most of his salaried days visiting drug stores and making sure they have lots of antihistamines on the shelves – “where anyone can reach them.”

So his income comes from his role as an antihistamine company inspector, while he also collects royalties as an antihistamine patent heir.

You can imagine that the subject of antihistamines is an extremely sensitive one at the Histamine family dinner table. Their best-friend neighbor Gertrude Gallaway (aka Gert) found this out the hard way. She used to be best friends with both Mrs. Leblanc and my own mother. And she’s a registered nurse who has always lived in the house right between mine and the Leblanc house. Importantly – Gert’s been banned from the Leblanc house for the last six years because of medical advise she once gave them.

1966 Event:

While delivering presents to the Leblanc house during Christmas vacation that year, Gert remarked on the presence of antihistamine capsules on tables and countertops all over the house. Gertrude looked worriedly at her best friend, Mrs. Leblanc, who calmly explained that this was so children could pop an antihistamine whenever they had a runny nose or a sneeze. The pink ones were Children’s Daytime capsules, the blue ones were Children’s Nighttime capsules, and so on. This is how Mr. Leblanc ran his house – the house that antihistamines built.

Gertrude rarely loses her cool, but did she ever freak out at that moment, saying very loudly that antihistamines should be taken sparingly and only after all other options had been tried – not popped like candy every day!

Mr. Leblanc, who had been eavesdropping from the porch, looked up from his golf clubs and suddenly yelled “What other god-damned options are you nattering about, Gert know-it-all neighbor?” He shook a putter at her as he spoke and his eyes were full of fear and desperation.

Gertrude quietly gulped, and then her nursing training surfaced. She boldly listed a series of things to do if you had a runny nose or sneeze : slow-boiling water, air humidifiers, water and juices… and of course the easiest one of all, open a window once in a while or go outside. And always eat lots of fruits and vegetables.

Mr. Leblanc was furious. He said that from now on, the windows would be sealed shut from October to May – no exceptions. He also said that fruit juices were garbage, and that air humidifiers were a conspiracy theory. Then he clutched his golf bag (an antihistamine company gift) and left the house. Steven and his family silently listened to the car engine start up as Daddy Histamine quickly left for his golf appointment with two Drug Store owner friends.

That night in bed, Mrs. Leblanc protested all the new rules, so Mr. Leblanc simply barred Gertrude – her best friend – from ever visiting their house ever again. Not even when he wasn’t home, which was 90% of the time. Mrs. Leblanc would have to call Gert know-it-all on the phone if she ever wanted to talk to her again. No direct contact. Ever again. Never! You hear me?

1972 Measures : 

Gert’s unsolicited advice at Steven’s house that day is why :

1. the windows in Steven’s house are sealed all winter.
2. he isn’t allowed to eat fruits or vegetables in winter.
3. he isn’t allowed to go outside in winter.
4. his family can’t boil water or use a humidifier.
5. they have no kleenex or handkerchiefs.
6. Steven’s dog Contact-C died after accidentally swallowing antihistamines.
7. his little sister Jennifer had to be treated for antihistamine-resistant allergic reactions.
8. they snubbed my family as antihistamine reluctant
9. his dad only let me come over to work on the Geography presentation if I signed an oath saying that antihistamines are safe and effective.

Steven and I managed to finish our Platectonics presentation without me ever accepting any antihistamines from his mom. But I felt bad about having to lie all the time to get her off my case – it was like telling the Jehovah’s Witness at your door that you’ve already found Jesus Christ, thank you very much.


(Note. Any resemblance to real human beings is unintentional. This story – like other Steel City Fruit stories – is purely fictional.)

click for fruit

American Style!

June 24, 2021

(Dedicated to Elvis Gratton)

Love, Love American Style!
Truer than the Red, White and Blue-hoo-hoo-hoo!
Lo-ve, American Sty-y-y-yle!
That’s me and you!

Theme song for “Love, American Style”
Lyrics by Fox and Margolin
(altered by author to reflect what they sounded like to a very young child)

Hobbies – American Style!

It’s 1972. The Limits to Growth has just been published – the end of industrial civilization is nigh. I read it, and as a boy, was impressed by the science of computers that lead to its conclusions.

But way out in suburbia, we’re watching TV and have no time for non-commercial food for thought like this. In the burbs, our information diet is mainly fast food-based – TV and radio.
Watching TV and calling it “family life” is as convenient and American-Style! as eating hamburgers in a crowded car while listening to car ads.

We were always careful to remove the chewing gum before eating our vegetable-oil-infused sandwiches and potato by-products.

We just received some Nielson’s Rating forms to fill out. I feel so grateful our suburban family has been selected to represent ordinary Canadian TV viewers. Already ten years old, I’m thrilled to be recognized for my average TV-viewing habits, which means: seven hours per day. That is how much TV the average suburbanite watched.

Of course, I’m going to lie on the form and write that we’re watching Canadian TV programs (like Front Page Challenge) while in reality we’re watching commercial crap like Love American Style. This was my favorite program when I was a young child with no close friends – only favorite shows.

One thing that TV has taught me is to lie and misrepresent in order to get what I want. Even if *what I want* is just something that someone else’s lies and misrepresentation made me desire in the first place. I’ve heard on Canadian media that Canadian media is a good thing, so I am willing to lie for this cause, though this cause is probably a lie anyways.

(By the way, there is no Love-Canadian Style. But I do remember Love-French-Canadian style from my grandparents, and it was something that happened in real life, and not on TV shows)


Socialization – American Style!

It appears to me that many of my family, neighbors and schoolmates have only experienced, in their previous televison-less lives, a kind of lack-of-Love…Canadian Style. So, to remedy our tragic pre-TV condition, we all watch lots of American TV to learn a better way. A way to find *the love* that comes with following *this style*. Plus, what choice do you have when there’s nothing to do in your bungalow because every activity is so far away.

A pathetic attempt at a Love-Canadian-Style is represented by Canadian TV of the era – a series of boring government-funded TV shows that are guaranteed to drive you into the arms of ABC-NBC-CBS. Game shows about newspaper headlines, a show that gives you lightbulb-buying advice, sitcoms about normal people in Ontario that contain one forced laugh every 23 minutes.

For newly-bored suburban Canadians, Love-American-Style was The Television Show on a hill – an RGB beacon – a flickering light among the nations… where the stars came out every single night – Sonny and Cher, the Vietnam War, Superman and Lite Brite! They will save us! They will know what to do!

We watched and learned the ways of American-style Love: punchy sarcasm, fast one-liners, softcore porn moments that make you giggle, and the eternal search for new consumer products. All enjoyed from the isolation of a pre-fab bungalow.

And we heeded the American-style call-to-arms – to follow every trend, or risk dying of sadness and loneliness on a lawn in the middle of nowhere.



Oligarchy – American Style!

The actors on Love American Style will, for decades, show up on other hit shows – along with their brothers and children. The lead actor’s sister does the soundtrack, his wife is the daughter of the casting director, and so on.

The casting normalizes nepotism, in the same way that the shows themselves normalize infidelity, cars and suburban products. The end credits of every production whisper things to the audience that very few can decode. The shows tell them not to even bother trying to decode them.

Tribalism American Style or the global village – are two ways to describe this incestuous, peasant-like hiring policy. And all of this incest-produced narrative-management is punctuated with car, processed food, and oil company commercials.

As we fled to suburbia to escape all the easy female polygamy opportunities in the as-seen-on-TV city, we never really experienced the free love that this show titilated its audience with, but we got car culture imprinted in our brains – psyc-op style.

The sitcom-style sarcasm was another useful skill to learn from TV. Trapped suburban peasants often feel so bitter in their incestous suburban alienation, that we had lots of occasions to use sarcasm and irony on one another. As heard on TV.


Community – American Style!

We learned to put on sitcom smiles by watching TV shows full of smiling, frolicking suburban kids. The instant recognition of sitcom smiles is very handy when the only time you run into people is while you’re driving and only have a few seconds to communicate community-belongingness.

(Stopped at traffic lights)
“Look, it’s Henry and Marge.”
(rolls down window)
“Hey Henry, Hey Marge! How are you enjoying your new ski-doo?”
(traffic light changes, sitcom smiles, gotta go! drive away)

Love-American-Style showcases a life made of soundbites and signalling. And suburban social contact is also mostly soundbites and signalling because, um, that’s about all you have time to do when you are always inside a motor vehicle, alone in a suburban bungalow, or inside a private facility like a mall, surrounded by a moat of parking lots.

There is no community in suburbia, only soundbites and sitcom smiles.


Elvis – American Style!

My father’s generation decided, when they were young commercial radio fans, that they would forget their Acadian and Francophone culture and become true American-Style! As heard on the radio.

To be more like the the Shadow, they refused to speak French with their parents or relatives. They learned to smoke cigarettes, chew gum, talk back to their parents, eat hot dogs, to play baseball and to drive cars. The commercials for American products were like commandments they followed to get to Heaven-American Style!

My father and all his brothers listen to American radio dramas in the car alone, and marry anglophone women who speak no French – only the language of the Shadow. These women are all trying to be Donna Reed or that witch on Bewitched.

Boomer couples made up of one Shadow and one Donna Reed will – en masse, like sheep – move to car-dependent suburbs, and let American television act as the main socialization tool of their kids, who rarely see their own father’s shadow – he”s always gone in the car like the Shadow, while Donna beats her kids over the head with reeds.

Elvis Gratton is the result – obese dummies with no roots anywhere. American cities are the model to follow, and so are American actors and pop stars. We will all be fatter and more naive than our grandparents, and have fewer social contacts. We will sing American songs alone in our ugly and cheap bungalows. We will be bored and anxious all the time, and suffer from lack of community or social activities.

We grow up with television as our primary teacher and guide. American Commercial media is also our primary babysitter, just like morphine-brands like laudanum  were the primary babysitter a century before TV was invented.

To imitate the Shadow, we will live in the shadows of our own lives in the burbs. I wonder if my father’s generation ever figured out that these sainted icons like the Shadow and Donna Reed really didn’t know or care about their millions of viewers’ lives at all. That these icons were just part of a manipulative gang who only wanted viewers for their money.



Lawn – American Style!

Our house is a 40 minute walk from a shopping mall, where all you can do is shop. It’s not a great place to hang around, and you cross paths with no one when you walk there. The sidewalk in front of it is just skinny enough to waddle towards the sliding door into an individual shopping unit (“store”).

The mall has a parking lot that extends all the way to the river, eliminating any kind of wetland transition or publicly accessible trail. This is the largest infrastructure in our town – a parking lot.

The entire population of Rust River (3000) would fit in three-story housing in the parking lot of our mall. But we all spread out, cut down all the trees and wasted lots more land, with massive lawns which also dilute any urban proximity.

There is nowhere to walk as there are only bungalows and ugly lawns for an hour’s walk (on the road at times) in every direction. And people who walk are made to look like losers in all our TV shows and magazines. The same media that are filled with car ads…

All the children in my suburb watch too much TV, and grow up lonely and socially awkward. The nastiest people in North America can be found in spread out suburbs, and not in the poorest inner city ghettos.

Failed-Urbanism-American Style! (the car-dependent suburb) has eliminated *a life-fulfillment necessity* that mammals took for granted since they left the oceans – walking around and finding interesting things to see and do.


Zombies – American Style!

My mother, myself and my sister are walking towards Walmart, when we see Davy Kass, a neighbor, walking towards the mall from a different parking place. We stop in the middle of the asphalt, and my mother initiates smalltalk.

Ma: “Hey, Davy. I hear Brian got a job at the plant. Not easy with all the lay-offs.”

(Steel City has been in a depression since before I was born. Rust River-style suburbs were a way to escape the depressed housing stock and social problems of the inner city by staring at a TV or lawn)

Davy: “Yes, I know about the lay-offs. They say our economy is in trouble, but just look at all the new cars!” he says as he waves his arm at the parking lot – Vanna White style – with a huge sitcom smile on his red, round face.

Seconds later, a white Ford Bronco almost crushes my sister as it spins around a row of parked cars. This is obviously no place to be talking to a neighbor, it turns out – in front of a store. (Facebook still hasn’t been invented so we’re still stuck with face-to-face).

My mother angrily grabs my sister’s arm, sneers at her, and then smiles shamefully (but sitcomfully) at Davy, as we say bye and walk towards the Walmart entrance. She’s angry that my sister’s almost-getting-killed ruined a rare social moment of free conversation.

So we aren’t going to get an ice cream because little sister ruined the small talk by almost getting hit by a truck. As children, we have learned (by watching lots of TV) that getting hit by a vehicle is a huge mark of failure for a child and their parents. Later, in high school, we will find out that Darwin said the same thing – that losers walk and freedom rides around in a Trans Am.

I don’t know why Davy was so happy about all the cars in the parking lot. The main industry in slowly dying Steel City is rails for railroad tracks. Steel City (and Rust River) need to sell railroad track parts or we will not have jobs, or eventually, a reason to exist in the capitalist economy.

Cars and trucks are eliminating the need for rails. All those cars! means that our town is going to die a slow, painful death. – American style.

Why was Davy so Vanna White – so sitcom smile – about this sad fact?




Fences – American Style!

Our streets have no sidewalks, and it takes about 45 minutes to walk anywhere. I don’t know much about any of our neighbors, but I know what kind of car they drive as they drive by me.

One of our neighbors – Mrs. McTall – is a young mother who recently moved to our subdivision. She knows no one. When she passes by me as I walk to the top of the street, she always offers to give me a lift. But I have never accepted because I like walking. I like my autonomy and find it awkward to sit right next to a stranger in an enclosed metal box.

After 20 years of living next to her, I still only know that she drives an Oldsmobile 98. I know most of my neighbors by the cars they drive, and very little else.

I think Mrs. McTall died a few years ago… I’m not sure. But what I do know is that the Oldsmobile division was discontinued in the year 2000. I don’t miss either one, though Mrs. McTall may have been an interesting person. Who knows. I only knew her car.


MK Ultra – American Style!

Virtually everything in commercial media is trying to sell the audience products. When athletes aren’t joyfully consuming fastfood in ads, car sponsors are providing the heroes on the Action Series they fund.

And so it is with Love-American Style. During the 50s and 60s, the meta-product that commercial media is selling is suburbia. By getting people to move to suburbia, car sponsors, oil sponsors, media itself, and a whole series of corporations… are creating a captive audience for their products and marketing.

So in every episode of the show, the majority of gags are set up as a woman cheating on her husband. For married men watching this show, the message is that you can never trust women left alone in urban environments. By moving to suburbia, a male can *entrap* his wife in a situation that limits her opportunity to meet sexable men in parks and other urban settings.

I first saw this show when I was three, but my father didn’t like when my mom and I watched it because every second gag is about a woman cheating on her husband, or mocking marriage in some other way. A lot of men seem to be frightened of losing their wives to some dark-haired man in a city park. I guess this show is one reason why.

Love, love, love! And lawnmowers and station wagons and TV sets. Normalization of these products. A new normal in suburbia where your wife is safely locked away, and everyone needs the products that the sponsors sell you as you gawk at boredom-reducing entertainment products for hours on end.

Never underestimate the power of psychology when it is used against you.

Love, Love American Style!
Truer than the Red, White and Blue-hoo-hoo-hoo!
Lo-ve, American Sty-y-y-yle!
That was me and you!

“Speak White” – Michèle Lalonde


(Note. Any resemblance to real human beings is unintentional. This story – like other Steel City Fruit stories – is purely fictional.)

click for fruit

Squeaky Toys: the review

April 24, 2021

A Duckland book review :
Michel Foucat – “Squeaky Toys and Submission”
with Daffy Duck and Ibn Battuta


DD : Ibn, I know you have some qualms about the methodology and some of the conclusions, but wouldn’t you agree that this is, nonetheless, a great philosophical work?

IB : When I first dove into Squeaky Toys, I was a bit blinded by the fact that this is Michel Foucat, with all that it entails. I enjoyed reading it, but kind of slept through it. But after reading it a second and then a third time, I was more able to see some of the possible flaws in his research.

DD : Such as?

IB : Well Daffy, in the second chapter, Foucat quips that “When you gaze into the dog too long, the dog gazes back into you.” And he then goes on to explain how the enslaving of dogs had a way of normalizing slavery in general, especially what he calls squeaky toy-enhanced slavery. He posits that humans were more able to accept their own social slavery by enslaving a smaller animal than themselves.

DD : And do you disagree with this?

IB : I don’t want to say whether I agree or not. I’m hardly qualified to describe the relationships between humans and dogs. But my issue is – neither is Foucat. Humans have been extinct for over a century, so most of what he has deduced about the interspecies relationships between them is based on second-hand research, often written by dogs or cats. I mean, if we ducks ever go extinct, will wolves write our stories for us? I certainly hope not.

DD : But isn’t this normal methodology when you’re writing about historical periods and extinct species? Don’t we have to enter into historical data and records that we can’t really support with personal experience?

IB : Of course. But one has to be careful about making pat statements about other species’ historical relationships when you have never actually witnessed their interaction yourself. There are limits to what can be constructed on hearsay, even if the hearsay is complex and vast. Everything that the author describes, aghast, about the meek sycophancy of dog pets, is written from a cat-centric point of view, based on dog-written texts. In the author’s conclusions, the biases are likely to be more of a factor than the actual details of the research.

DD : On the other hand, all books tell the story from their author’s point of view, no?

IB : Yes, but Michel Foucat isn’t just any author. He’s a cat, and cats have had a personal experience with human submission, as well as a complicated relationship with the dog world for many centuries. So he’s not only relying too much on indirect research, but he’s also part of a community that is not neutral in the matters of which he writes. For ducks like us, this species bias is important to recognize because of our own mitigated relationship with the feline species.

DD : Are there any other examples of possible research-contaminating bias in the book?

IB : One other springs to mind. In the chapter entitled Spoiled! he contrasts the plush and colorful toys that dogs are given as tokens of affection – with the control of their bathroom breaks, torture-based training, solitary confinement, and other enslavement conditions. He concludes that these toys are primarily to make the wicked human master feel less guilty about robbing the dog of all his dignity and freedom.

DD : Yes, he goes on to say that, in many ways, dogs were themselves a squeaky toy for humans – along with pickup trucks and diamond rings – and that dogs were aware of this. But back to your point, Ibn – in what way is this contaminated with bias?

IB : Well, Daffy, contaminated might not be the best word here. But once again…I…um… some of the conclusions that Foucat comes to – like that squeaky toys were mainly a tool of human guilt-management – is made without a real grasp or description of human psychology. We duck readers are just supposed to assume that humans would feel guilty about enslaving another species, and that a squeaky toy would help.

This may be the author projecting duck and cat levels of empathy onto a long-gone human species. Not surprisingly, Foucat has been accused by many academics of being “Felinist” in the way he selects historical data to paint a very specific portrait of his own species.

DD : Wow! Thank you, Ibn.

We’ll be back with more of this review of Michel Foucat’s “Squeaky Toys and Submission” after these words from our sponsors.


click for more das qaturday

Cycling through Four Exfoliations

January 8, 2021

(dedicated to all bike mechanics everywhere and at all times)

to remove or shed (a layer of skin or bark)

So far in my life, as of the writing of this short story, I have completely exfoliated four times by riding a bicycle long distances.

The skin or bark that I shed each time and with each push of the pedals, was the hardened, calloused, persona that formed as I lived through the smoggiest and most acid-rained-on parts of my life. And like a snake or caterpillar, the result is a fresh perception with which to build on. A shiny new outlook and worldview. A new skin (or bark).

Exfoliation 1. Steel City Puberty

The first life-saving exfoliation took place when I hit puberty at 12. After spending 6 years alone and friendless in a sprawled out subdivision isolated from people or interesting activities, I was finally allowed to bike far enough to get myself friends when I turned twelve! The two best friends that I made in the first year of bike freedom lived 6 km and 10 km away.

Most kids didn’t bike very much in Steel City. The TV was there for them, I guess. TV stopped working for me at eight.

I pedaled as carefully as a pre-teen can. As my hardened, alienated skin peeled off, I had to really watch out for cars and trucks as our subdivision was located right next to a busy highway interchange. I still can’t believe I survived all the almost-collisions and near-misses. But I did.

I was a new fruit in town with… FRIENDS!

Exfoliation 2. Back to Steel City

Leaving Steel City for a few years to study abroad, I returned broke and feeling like a failure, finding myself back at the house that I biked away from so many times. Unloved and with no real reason to be there, and carrying all the existential angst of a young adult who can’t seem to grow up and leave home… I was able to steal away almost every nice evening, and do a 16 km loop around Oily Lake.

Narrowly avoiding being hit by impatient truckers and fast-moving suburbanites, I was able to do this loop often enough to make a plan to get a job, save money, and get away again. If I hadn’t biked reguarly during this period, I probably wouldn’t be here today.

And with the terrible bike infrastructure and total absence of bike culture in Steel City, I could have disappeared under a vehicle’s wheels during this period. But I didn’t. Perhaps the danger of almost being killed every ride made me appreciate being alive more. Gave me enough appreciation for life that I got focussed.

I was an organized fruit now, with PLANS!

Exfoliation 3. Post-Steel City Stress Disorder

A few years after relocating to a big city where I knew no one and nothing, I started to experience the aching crisis of panic attacks – a daily horror of heart-attack-like sensations, insomnia, and the budding of social neuroses.

Doctors and Psychologists try to help with words, therapies, advice, and a few happy pills. But none of it really works. There is a deep malaise in my head and these cures just don’t seem to be on the same scale as the terror behind the attacks.

But I find a way to control them in the evenings. Bike rides. Long, four-hour bike rides through parks, along canals, and up mountains. Though the panic still lingers, I am finally able to sleep well. And this leads to a cascading of positive improvements that leads to the disappearance of panic attacks within four years.

I was a more cautious fruit now with… SELF ESTEEM!

Exfoliation 4. Collapse of Capitalism

When I was in my middle ages, the stock market crashed for the fourth time in my life. I was in Spain at the time on vacation, and had to return immediately on the first plane because of what media was calling an “epidemic.”

Arriving in my city apartment, everything had been rebranded as diseased. And because of this, our ability to move around, work at your job, or see friends were all limited in order to save lives. Sit still in a house and save lives.

I always suspect things, and I suspected throughout the pandemic that the real reason for the repressive and anti-social measures wasn’t to save lives through distancing, but rather to save capitalism through lies. It wouldn’t be the first time. Our country was built on the lies of capitalism after all. Less informed people don’t know this about Steel City’s history, and so they are happier than me all the time. Blissful while wearing surgical masks in their SUVs.

Nonetheless, I went along with the repressive measures, giving my government a chance to prove its case. Or, eventually, to reveal that it had lied for some reason other than to steal from people to keep the financial parasite class well-lubed with everyone’s stolen cash. “Perhaps there is more to this,” I said to myself as I put oil on my bike chain, “Whether it’s real or fake, any crisis can be softened up a bit with aerobics and calcifediol.”

So, I biked long-distance almost every day, worked at physically taxing jobs, and didn’t experience the weight gain and profound existential misery that many of my friends did, and that I could have as well. I actually kept my morale up and my body in great health.

I wonder what kind of skin (or bark) I’ll shed when this is finally over. Maybe it’s everyone’s skin that’s at stake this time.

(Note. Any resemblance to real human beings is unintentional. This story – like other Steel City Fruit stories – is purely fictional.)

click for fruit

The Santa Clausist Tragedy

December 22, 2020


When Henry Hogard decided to run for a Grade Three Model Parliament on the last week of school before holidays, he had no idea what an impact he’d have.

Having moved to Pottin Lake, Saskatchewan from Deer Lake, Minnesota in the middle of a school year, he was the oldest kid in the class at 10 years of age. Most of the other students were 8 or 9. Still, he was small and friendly, and his age was never really an issue.

This was the early 60s, a time when the Norman Rockwell-Coca Cola version of Xmas was at its mass media peak.

Henry’s Platform

Henry decided to run as an independent. His teacher – Mrs. Effans – asked all the candidates to describe their platforms to the class, “Student candidates, tell everyone what you will try to do if they vote for you…”

Former bully Steven Levitt was running on the Save the Squirrels ticket, smartest kid in class Joan McCrag ran as the Better Cartoons–Less Fastfood candidate, and most of the other candidates showed concern for litterbugs, coach potato-hood, or Cooty-prevention. But not Henry.

When it was Henry’s turn, he read from his notes: “I am here to tell all of you that Santa Claus does not exist. It is your parents who buy the gifts, and then they lie to you. This charade must stop. It’s dishonest and lacks dignity.”

Mrs. Effans was dumbfounded: “How do you know this, Henry?” she asked with a kindly but stern voice. “Who told you something like this?”

No one got to hear his answer. The classroom immediately exploded into shouting and noisy distraction, with everyone talking at the same time and throwing spit-balls and other small objects.

Mrs. Effans,hit in the eye with a large spit-ball, stepped out to get the first aid kit. When she got back a minute later, she regained control of the group, and patiently asked Henry to go see the principal.

He said sure, ran off to the office where the principal patiently explained that he was older than the other students and that they too deserved the same Xmas narrative that he had enjoyed as a 9-year-old. Henry apologized right away and promised to drop out of the model parliament and never speak about the Santa Claus thing again. Problem resolved. Normal kid learning stuff. That seemed to be the end of it.

Or at least, it could have ended there, except for one thing.

The Blame Game

Poor little Anna McTavish’s father had been one of the many people laid off at the Pottin Lake bottling plant a month before the holidays. A few other of Henry’s classmates had lost their incomes as well.

Anna’s dad – Mr. McTavish – was too proud to admit falure to his daughter, so rather than explaining the real reason why he couldn’t afford to buy presents and risk ruining the Santa Claus story and losing his daughter’s admiration – Mr. McTavish fibbed that Santa hadn’t come this year becuase of Henry Hogard’s “lack of faith in Santa.”
Henry ruined Xmas. Sorry, Anna. *Hugs*

Anna had never particularly liked Henry (or any other boys for that matter), and learning that he was the one to have angered Santa … filled her with plastic-pearl-clutching rage. The McTavish’s lived in a simple but large bungalow next to the lake where Anna would go to cry when she was fed up.

Her father’s recent binge-drinking and foul humor also seemed to point towards the infidel anti-Santa ranting of Henry – the non-believer. The misery of a present-less Xmas was thus laid at the feet of the ten-year-old apostate. The lake told her this was true.

The first day back to school in January, Anna shared her trauma with two other kids (Alice and Sara) who had not received any presents either – both of them the daughters of lay-offed bottle plant workers just like Anna. Though they hadn’t been told why they had been shunned by Santa, Anna’s well-told story convinced them that it must have been Henry’s fault. They had all been so very good, so very kind, that nothing else made sense. Why would Santa snub quiet, TV-watching kids who hadn’t been assertive at all, unless it was because of the pre-holiday lack of faith of one of their impure colleagues? And a boy, of course, would do this kind of thing.

Alice remembered that Henry’s neighbor and best friend Steven and his family were Jewish (at some point in history), and that Henry’s mother was half Lebanese-Muslim (or something). Thinking that this might explain Henry’s lack of faith in Santa Claus, they burned both Henry’s and his neighbor’s houses to the ground later that night, while singing Xmas carols.

When word got out throughout Saskatchewan and the rest of the world of what had transpired, all sorts of militarized grups showed up in Pottin Lake; racist vigilante groups, some American KKK members, Hunting Associations, B’nai Brith, Orangemen Associations, and many retired soldiers and independent mercenaries showed up from all over North America to protect either the fine Santa-fearing children of the homeland, or to protect the victims of the Santa-fearing children of the homeland. When these armed helpers arrived, they found a well-armed cavalry of local parents on both sides of the Santa Claus Divide already in place and ready to brawl.

Home fires were started, gunshots were heard day and night, kids fought to the death against other children – and by Valentine’s Day, all of the houses, businesses and schools of Pottin Lake had been burned to the ground and the residents had all fled.

And all because someone didn’t believe in Santa Claus.

Click for fake history

Limited Growth

November 18, 2020


(Dedicated to librarians)

What book most changed my life? That’s an easy question for me to answer. It was “The Limits to Growth.”

I read it when I was 12 years old, and then I didn’t grow at all for three years. Zero growth because of one book. – that’s life changing.

The Bookmobile Arrives

Book reading is something I was introduced to at age 7 when the Bookmobile made its first visit to my class when I was in Grade Two. There was no library in my upper income suburb, nor did my tiny rural elementary school have one. Just big cars and big lawns.

So when I finally got access to the book scene at that age, I devoured most of the Babar and Peter Rabbit series. Reading books gave my eyes a rest from watching television, and also let me be alone in my room with no disturbances. Plus, I could imagine being a cute little animal living in Paris, or going on adventures and helping other rabbits, instead of just staring at a TV in a suburban setting and fighting for the remote control with other TV-viewers – what used to be called family members.

Library Access

Five years later, when I turned 12, I was finally allowed to take the once-every-two-hours city bus into the downtown library and get a library card. From now on, I could choose from an entire galaxy of books. The world was finally at my fingertips!

Steel City’s library was tiny, but at least it didn’t have wheels. My reading skills and worldly knowledge would finally be leaving the trailer park of Gilligan’s Island-style book sightings.

I read The Limits to Growth in a summer week, letting the very adult-oriented content sink in slowly. Computers and computer simulations were new in 1974, so I felt I was somehow preparing for adulthood and changing times.

Everything in the book seemed to suggest that the way the adults were living in the 70s would end in disaster and misery during my lifetime. And on top of this, it had already been published for two years, so there was even less time to waste. The book told readers of my age that our lives would eventually be destroyed by the bad decisions being made right now.

Growth is a disaster! Something has to be done

That year, at age 12, I was five foot two. Three years later, no change. Same height at age 15.

My weight also stayed the same. And my hair style and glasses.

At 12, it took me 4 hours to mow our lawn. Three years later, still 4 hours.

Steel City had the same population for that period as well, going from 35,000 to 30,000 in the city, with the new suburban bungalow-belt picking up about the same number as were lost in the city.

I watched the same sitcoms at 15 as I did at 12. I had the same circle of friends. They watched the same sitcoms for this period as well.

I wore beige and brown Levis cords for the entire three years. And went through two pairs of size 8 North Star sneakers.

The energy crisis had struck our suburb a year before, so exploding gas prices meant that Steel City was in a major recession throughout my zero growth period. Cars would even start getting smaller a few years later. Shrinking.

Drivers were subsequently granted the new freedom to turn right on a red light, and this meant that it became a lot more dangerous for me and other kids to cross streets or bike to school. My younger brother and sister were henceforth prohibitted from biking to school, whereas me and my older sister had gotten to school by bike almost every day just a few years earlier.

Over dinner, I mentioned to my uncle that Steel City was the only region where more money was spent on highways than on schools. My uncle sneered at me, and then went for a drive alone in his truck. He hadn’t read a book since he left school at age 15. I guess this made him unable to appreciate the need for books or education budgets. With a truck, you can fly around corners at high speed. With a book, you simply can’t do this.

The war on Vietnam that the TV liked so much was, at best, a stalemate. Salaries stagnated. The TV was on for the entire three years with the same Price is Right filler between sitcoms, car chases, and news.

The Times they were a’ Stayin’ Still as my body went through puberty without me.

(Note. Any resemblance to real human beings is unintentional. This story – like other Steel City Fruit stories – is purely fictional.)

click for fruit


October 20, 2020


Cindy is sitting in a wooden chair, crying in Miss Glaciermelt’s office. She’s been using the blank looseleaf paper for her essay as a kleenex to dry her tears, so blue ink is smudged over the pink line.

Miss Glaciermelt: “Why are you having such a hard time with your term paper, Cindy? I’ve already given you a two-week extension.”

Cindy: “I know. But more time isn’t going to help me if I have zero inspiration. I don’t really understand what I am supposed to do with the two triangles I was assigned. What is there to say?”

Glaciermelt: “I asked you to compare two graphs or charts, one from the past, and one from the present. That’s it. The rest is up to you.”

Cindy: “I know that. But the two triangles are so different – I don’t know where to start. They’re both triangles, sure. But that isn’t much to compare.”

Glaciermelt: “I know they’re both triangles. But what’s different about them, besides that one is from the past and one is from now? And why is this difference important? What does it tell us about the past? About the present?”

Cindy: “Can you give me a hint. Something that’s different – and importantly different – about them? One single thing. Please.”

Glaciermelt: “Well, I can’t force-feed a student the content of her essay. But we could look at the two triangle charts together if you like, and I’ll give you some “clues” as you call them. But you have to take notes or I’m not doing this.”

Cindy: “Okay. I’ll take notes.

*she takes out a pen and binder*

Here’s the first triangle from my Social Health class. I got it from Mr. Freezin. He said I could use it for this class as well.”

Glaciermelt: “The Iceflowe Needs Ladder. Hmmm…

The hierarchical order of polar bear needs. At the bottom, you have basic biological needs like seal meat, water, and a place to hibernate. Once she gets those first-level things satisfied – but not before! – a polar bear can then seek safety needs. Now that she’s at Level 2, she doesn’t have to risk her life on thin ice to get food since she’s not starving.

And you just keep climbing the needs ladder all your life, step by step, until at the top, a senior polar bear can become completely content with their lives overall and the relationships and responsibilities they have had with their communities.”

Cindy: “Oh, Mr. Freezin explained the Iceflowe triangle to me pretty well last week when I saw him in his office. It’s the other one – the archival triangle – the human triangle – that I don’t really understand.

Like, what’s a Buick? Why is it better than a Chevrolet? And how do they make you feel fulfilled? I don’t understand the psychology.”

Glaciermelt: “The human triangle is from what humans used to call a car company advertisement. You can google that later.

This ad told humans – it was a lie – that they could have the same satisfaction by climbing a ladder of car-brand prestige. Their message was that, even if you have no community or even no friends, you could still climb to the top if you had enough money for a Cadillac. Cadillac was the car company’s replacement for self-fulfillment on the other triangle.”

Cindy: “Did the car company triangle work?”

Glaciermelt: “It’s not really a question of working or not. The problem with a normal needs ladder like ours is that the top three notches require some kind of community to satisfy them. You can’t feel “belonging” when you are always alone, and you can’t receive esteem or feel fulfilled if you don’t have a functionning community of your species to interact with.”

*Cindy quickly scribbles this down*

Cindy: “Yes, but did the Cadillac top-tier satisfy humans the same as the Self-Fulfillment top-tier of our polar bear triangle?”

Glaciermelt: “To know that, you ‘d have to ask a human. But they went extinct… so we have to rely on our research.

Their disappearance might steer you towards the conclusion you’re looking for. I mean, if their car company triangle worked, humans would probably still be alive to promote it some more. I suggest you look into the disappearance of human communities and social capital which was taking place at exactly the same time that this triangle was popular. Teacher’s two cents worth.”

Cindy hugs Miss Glaciermelt, and then leaves her office with a smile on her face. She’s really starting to feel like she belongs in Glaciermelt’s Post-Human Extinction class – and is thrilled to have reached Level 3 on the normal needs ladder.

click for polar bears

The Grape Vine

October 12, 2020


Guest column by Yuri Raisinstein, award-winning author of The Grape Advantage: Us versus Anarchy

Sustainable? Cuke-o-phobic?

Feline colleagues often ask me how I can justify living a comfortably lazy life as a Grape Monkey, enjoying delicious sweet treats by just snapping my fingers, while most other monkeys have to make do on a diet of mainly dried out cucumber, and work for most of their waking hours. Why do I get free time and ripe grapes, while others get dried out cucumbers and burnout?

Let me start by saying that many other species also reserve different diets for various classes of their species. Grapes for some, cucumbers for others – it’s the way we primates roll. Just look that other famous primate, the human being:

Humans had some castes that ate lentils (Dalit, or untouchables), and other classes that ate better-prepared kosher food, or some (the 1%) who could even limit their diet to catered, well-branded food in trendy third spaces.

So dietary difference (Vive la différence!) has always been an acceptable way of creating the unique individuality that adds so much meaning and drama to Grape life.

Roots of the the Great Grape Culture

Grape Monkey culture started in the 20th Century when our Great Prophet – Frans de Waal – fed a few of our sacred ancestors – Experimental Monkeys 1 and 2 – grapes, while feeding other less high-end monkeys cucumbers for performing the exact same tasks. To this day, almost all Grape Monkeys have pictures of Frans-the-Father hanging in their bedrooms and offices.

Gilded Pictures of Frans the Father

On that Holy Day that we remember in the Gilded Picture, Father Frans alloted to Monkey 1 the cucumber of shame – the vegetable of losers and suckers, while our great-ancestor Monkey 2 received the Holy Grape of the Laboratory Sample – or what is commonly called the Holy Sample.

When Monkey 1 got angry and began to act aggressively, Frans-the-Father smiled knowlingly and scientifically, and looked favorably at Monkey 2’s plexiglass cage. This smile (the Smile of the Selected – החיוך של הנבחר) is why we Grape Monkeys get to live more high-quality lives than the rejected cukes ever will. We recite this inspiring story to one another almost every day before the First Grape (Primum Uva – 6 am). And the Gilded Picture captures that famous smile.

Cucumber’s sad Decline

In the last few decades, Cucumber terrorist organizations like Cuke-nuke and Pickle-o-thon have destroyed thousands of these framed pictures while stealing billions of dollars of grapes and grape juice reserves. But we hope that new laws forbidding cucumber monkeys from gathering in groups of more than six might improve things crime-wise. Likwise, the decision to tatoo cucumber monkeys and implant security chips in their arms are promising initiatives – lots of new ideas are circulating that could keep Grape culture alive for eternity, like it says “will be” in The Holy Book of the Grape (كتاب العنب المقدس).

And I don’t think that the inequality question is as important as media make it sound. In the latest survey by the Grape Monkeys Digest, readers put the well-being of cucumber-monkeys near last in their list of issues. The well-being of cucumber-monkeys was mentionned by only 4 % of the population – well below other issues like grape prices, grape worship, and wine quality. In the same survey, a majority of Grape Monkeys said that they believed that a lack of education the lack of functional family units in Cuke settlements is their primary problem. Slightly under half of respondants wrote that they believed an evolutionary difference renders Cukes incapable of reaching Grape High Culture.

Faith in Our Shared Grapeness

It may be true that the humans let themselves fall into extreme inequality, and that the loss of shared empathy destroyed their ability to care for one another and ended up driving their own species to extinction. But Grape Monkeys will never let cucumber terrorism sink us to that level. We look to Frans-the-Father to lead us into the paradise that grape consumption assures us all, in the name of the Bloom, the Pulp, the Skin, and the Sacred Seeds.


click for more das qaturday

Fat-or-Flight Response

August 5, 2020

Steel City Fruit_fat flight


(Dedicated to jocks)

Some people have no idea why their father never spent time with them when they were kids. But I have a pretty good idea why mine was never there.

Growing up in a dying industrial town, I was always disappointed by how few really revolutionary or even creative people were around. “Whatever happened to all the creative agents of change who could make a difference in our dying town’s future,” I used to wonder.

Later, as a young adult in college, I did some research into the 20th Century history of Steel City. And what I found out was that, in the 1930s, there were lots of really smart and revolutionary people doing some very brave and innovative things. There were several types of communist activists, trade unionists, socialists and radical egalitarians. All of them were armed with texts and had large followings in the steel mill and coal mines.

And while these socially-active groups were different from each other in tactics and ideological inspiration, one thing that they had in common was that the Federal Government had the army shoot all their leaders dead in order to maintain our failed capitalist system during the Depression. Literally hundreds of the brightest and bravest Steel City activists were brutally murdered by either the armed forces, or by the Klan or other imported terrorist organizations. And this was a PPP project – private public. Both the government and industry were involved in hiring the killers.

This mass murder of the smart people didn’t just eliminate the most vital and well informed citizens of Steel City –  it also had the (perhaps intended) effect of reducing the value that locals gave to intelligence or education. These things – intelligence and education – had both been growing by leaps and bounds with general literacy and universal school attendance, both introduced in the early 1900s. But by the Great Depression, the powers-that-be decided that education had gone too far – that the steel workers and miners of Steel City had to go back to being ignorant serfs, scared of their own shadows. And that’s exactly what Steel City became.  Along with a haven for drunken hopelessness, of course.
Firing squad

One of the many tragic side effects of the elimination of the smart people of Steel City and the death of ideas in general, was an increased prevalence of morbid obesity. I guess that when people realize that they can be killed for being too smart, all that’s left to do is to eat yourself to death. Also, the inhuman work routines that bosses can dictate in the absence of smart people are often sedentary and psychologically unrewarding or, inversely, physically damaging and mentally exhausting. Being someone’s pet, a serf, is a sure ticket to a decreased life quality and a shorter lifespan. In many people’s eyes, a shorter lifespan might even be a gift to humans trapped in this kind of racket.

Forty years after the killing of the smart, my father was hired as an assistant manager of the paint store in Steel City, the underling of an incredibly obsese manager named Kenneth Trimmenson. Ken weighed almost 300 pounds, and he joked that his girth was due to his social popularity : when he wasn’t sitting down at work with a client, he was sitting down with friends having many, many beers, or sitting down with his family watching movies. Or driving his station wagon – the wood-paneled one with the vista windows in the roof.

When Ken suddenly died of obesity-related causes at the young age of 41, leaving behind a wife and three little girls, my father replaced him as manager. Dad inherited the well-worn vinyl seat that Ken had broken in, returning the picture of Kenneth’s three daughters to Ken’s widowed wife, tears in everyone’s eyes.

Even though Dad was no doubt thrilled to have his salary doubled, I remember him saying to a client how worried he was about becoming obese and unhealthy like Ken. His new Manager position was a purely administration job, and it required him to stay almost motionless for hours at a time, every day. And the busier it was at the store, the less opportunity there would be to burn calories, to go outside – to live some semblance of a healthy, normal human life.

So in order to keep his weight down and his spirits up, my father decided to spend all his free time playing sports, even if this meant never spending more than a few token minutes each day eating or sleeping in proximity to his family. He even brought his golf clubs to family get-togethers, usually escaping from the family within minutes to go shoot some balls far, far away. Anything to control weight and muscle tone. There was no time for getting to know him, or for him to get to know us, his “family.”

This is why I hated sports when I was a child, and it’s why I hate capitalism now.

(Note. Any resemblance to real human beings is unintentional. This story – like other Steel City Fruit stories – is purely fictional.)

click for fruit

Sheep Media

May 12, 2020

Das Qaturday Sheep Medea

They never wanted to return to their prison.
So Mike would target the oldest female, Medea, for coaxing


I was foraging for an old ball of string in the attic, when I found this old diary of a human “shepherd” named Mike. A shepherd, by the way, was a type of human slave-master for another species – in this case, sheep. This kind of human slave-master – a shepherd – would control dozens or even hundreds of another mammal species in order to shave off their hair or kill them and eat their muscle tissue.

Mike was the master of fourteen sheep, mostly females, and only one of these animal slaves was black. Every day, Mike would take the sheep out of their confinement pen, and lead them to an open field. They were always thrilled to get out and needed no convincing or prodding to leave confinement.

Once he was far away from the crowds at the historic park, Mike would slip his earbuds on and take his prisoners to some faraway patch of green grass. Once there, it was time to lay on the grass listening to Adam and the Ants, while the sheep peacefully enjoyed the saladosphere that human hero Mike had found for them.

To get them back to their confinement compound at the end of the day was much more difficult. It’s like they never wanted to return to their prison. So Mike would target the oldest female, Medea, for coaxing.

Medea was the mother of more than half of the other sheep, and the grandmother of a few of the others, so she was the one that most of the other sheep listened to and respected. Most of them had been fed directly by Medea when they were lambs so she was the go-to sheep to manipulate if you wanted to influence all the other sheep.

Ad revenu

When it was time to get the sheep back into confinement, Mike would simply push Medea’s head into a bucket of delicious grain and dried fruits, and she would then baaah loudly. “Baa-aaah!”

What this means, in our Modern Feline language, is “Food, this way! Food this way!” Medea could hardly breathe between baa-aahs and mouthfuls of the delicious morcels of oats, dried raisins and parsley.

Of course, her baahing was problematic. What she was really saying was “Food for me this way!” For her and her alone.

But Sheep dialects being what they were back in those days – the baahing wasn’t sophisticated enough to communicate the “for me” part of the exclamation. So while she meant “Delicious food for me this way! Yahoo!,” all the sheep heard was “Delicious food this way, yahoo!”

(Today, of course, Sheep are schooled to differentiate between “for me” and “for us” when they baaah. But this story is from a human diary written a hundred years before human extinction, so it’s Olde Sheep, as opposed to Modern Sheep baaahing.)

Once they got back into their lockdown pens, they would find the same boring feeding boxes full of the same dry, boring hay. They fell for this trick every single time, believing that the words of Medea – in the way that they understood them – were like a family gospel.

This small sheep community lived through the same false hope for delicious food  followed by the same disappointing dry hay each and every day. But they all felt that to not respect and follow Medea’s inarticulate baahing was like treason against group solidarity and family ties. No one wanted to be seen as an outsider who didn’t respect “family.” Even if that meant following a flawed understanding of that family member time and time again to the same dead end.

Mike called the specially mixed combination of grains and fruit that he gave Medea each day “Advertising Revenue.”

(A year later,  the sheep all contracted a fatal illness from the lead-based paint on their feeder and died. Their fur was shaved off of their dead carcases, but humans didn’t dare to eat their contaminated muscle and fat tissue.)


click for more das qaturday

Dogs with Jobs: Luigi

April 13, 2020

sad pet LUIGI


Luigi was a Siberian Husky who worked for almost five years as the guard dog for a stockbroker in Long Island, New York.

Before that gig, he had been raised in an animal rescue shelter by post-humanist hippies who had temporarily named him Piggy, because he was such a chubby little puppy.

The post-humanist animal shelter had always featured uncommon domestic animal toys like encylopedias, an open laptop computer, and various writing and drawing tools that even a dog’s paw could manipulate, if the animal was inclined to use them.

When Luigi was three, the aging post-humanists who ran the shelter were getting too old to care for their animals, and Luigi was finally adopted by Ralph Brathlewaite, a stockbroker who worked for a company called, ironically, Kennel Brokerage. Ralph had never owned a pet before – though he often opined to colleages that he considered most of his clients to be animals. Or muppets.

Ralph bought Luigi because his shrink had told him that having a pet would help him deal with the loneliness that haunted him living alone in his isolated eight-bedroom McMansion on the riverbed.

Luigi wasn’t police-trained for guarding houses, but he’d read a lot about that role in the encyclopedias in the shelter. By watching internet videos of guard dogs, Luigi was able to imitate the behaviors he saw, enough to impress Ralph Brathlewaite into purchasing him with great confidence. First impressions were excellent all around; Ralph appreciated the dog’s apparent skillset, and Luigi appreciated Brathlewait’s smell (fast food and deodorant).

A few years after buying him, Luigi’s owner Ralph decided to do something about the indigenous plants (weeds, he called them) that continued to sprout in his exotic Japanese rock garden. His garden specialist recommended Round Up, a product that had recently been introduced by a corporation that had previously supplied the arms industry with biological weapons.

Luigi Snoopy

Luigi had done a lot of research into products that could poison grass, and other surfaces that dogs (and other outdoor animals) might come into contact with. On seeing the bottles of Round Up sitting near the parked pickup truck, Luigi freaked out. This product could destroy his sense of smell, reduce his intelligence, and vastly shorten the healthy period of his life and the other dogs around him. “Thank Dog for those encyclopedias back at the post-humanist shelter!” he thought.

Luigi decided that it was time to take off the mask of servitude and reveal the crime that was taking place. He chewed through his leash, pealed the lable off a large bottle of Round Up, and began to quietly circulate around the neighborhood, showing the ingredient list to other dogs, frantically trying to impress on them the importance of stopping the propagation of this poison onto their paws and into their bloodstreams.

One of the noisier neighborhood dogs – Snoopy – ran immediately into its owner’s house and squealed. Snoopy’s owner closed all the gates and doors electronically to trap Luigi in the fenced-in yard, and made a quick phone call. Within minutes, Ralph Brathlewaite was standing next to his dog, with a smiling vet carrying a giant needle. That was the end of Ralph’s job as a guard dog, and also, of his life.

Turned out that Ralph had never really cared for Luigi, and he happily replaced Luigi with an electronic surveillance system a few days later.

All the other neighborhood dogs got weakened from the Round Up their masters applied to all their yards, most of them died years before their time,  and they all lost their sense of smell.  But they kept on chasing sticks for treats – treats that they could no longer taste.

click for sad pets

Trendy City Cats

April 8, 2019



The Beatles will never get back together again is what we hear on the car radio for five hours, as we’re driving to Victoria City to visit my Dad’s family. They live in the capital and biggest city.

His parents live right in the center of the historic downtown  which, at the time, is full of young, scruffy adults with long hair who wear loose beige clothing, pay little to no rent, and provide the smellscape with organic substances to counteract the smell of lead in the gasoline exhaust we’re all breathing.

I escape a boring television day to visit the next-door neighbors, the Boudreau family. They live in the mirror of my grandparent’s two-story townhouse. Their grandfather, Erwin Boudreau, is always around doing jigsaw puzzles and sneaking sips of gin from under the kitchen sink.

Even though Erwin (Mr. Boudreau to me) grew up in the Acadian Peninsula speaking only French, his parents named him Erwin after one of the biggest entrepreneurs in the region – Erwin McKacey. Virtually no one in his village could pronounce his name properly, so they called him Wing.

Granpa Wing’s namesake, Erwin J. McKacey, inherited some money selling land that was taken from the Tic Tac First Nations, and over time, his family managed to claw together local monopolies in copper mining, gasoline distribution, logging, and mass media, and was considered a hero by his own mass media empire. Which is what everyone watched.

In my grandparent’s day, people believed that naming a son after someone rich and famous might mean that this boy might get to finish at least grade 5 and weigh at least a hundred pounds at adulthood. This kind of thinking is sometimes called Cargo Cult thinking. Erwin McKacey lived to 95 years despite his lifelong obesity, and his monopolies turned both Steel City and Victoria City into tangles of highways, suburban lawns, and strip malls surrounded by monoculture forests sprayed with dangerous chemicals every year.

In any case, Jimmy Boudreau, the grandson who’s around my age, is taking me on a tour of their townhouse on a rainy day. I just found out that Jimmy has no idea who Erwin J. McKacey is while we were talking. His parents own a VW van, and feed all the local wild cats in their coal shed porch. At any one time, there are between 20 and 40 cats eating snacks and using  their porch and backyard.

The smell of cat urine, coal dust, and a dank mystery smell (pot, I suspect), greets us as we enter the back porch. Opening the inside storm door, Grandad – Wing Boudreau – is standing with a full glass of gin and some anti-depressants in his hands.



“This new generation only understand trends! They can’t think for themselves!”

I guess we walked in on a rant. I love old person rants! Erwin Boudreau was born in 1899, so his rants often have a turn-of-century sense of urgency.

“That screen door is useless! They saw someone’s cheap new bungalow had one, and so they had to have the same damn thing. As seen on TV! Cripes, what a mindless generation of tube heads. Just like that van. Hippy’s gotta have a van even if they can’t afford the gasoline for it! I should have forced them to play outside when they were kids!”

The tube is what we  call the TV we watch every day as a family. I can’t believe he’s insulting such an important and pleasant influence on every family I know. For me, this is like mocking God or capitalism.

“Your family are the worst, Qatzel!” He smiles while popping two orange pills into his mouth. “Suburbia, big car, company man… your parents are just following trends they saw on TV. They never saw a trend they didn’t want to follow!”

This is where Jimmy’s mom pops in and drags Wing back to his room to do jigsaw puzzles before he causes too much harm. We enter the kitchen now that he’s gone. There’s a piece of string art on the wall, and a pet rock sits next to a box on a shelf. The kitchen wall is a mural of a rainbow over Niagara Falls, and the whole scene is accentuated by the red-orange plastic chairs and table. The radio is blaring in the kitchen, and the television is blaring in the living room.

“I’m trying to talk my parents into buying me Levi’s this year,” I confide to Jimmy, just as a way of changing the subject. He nods like he knows why.

Just then, the overwhelming stench of cat urine and coal (and pot) forces us back out into the yard to play where the rain seems to have stopped.

click for sad pets

Donuts with Derek

December 30, 2017

Steel City Fruit_donuts


(Dedicated to the working-class males of suburbia)

We’re waiting at Kirk’s house, watching a Saturday Night Live rerun after smoking a small joint outside in the snow. It’s going to be quite an evening: two hours of comedy re-runs and then… Derek Haddad!

Derek Haddad works two night-shifts per week at McDonalds in order to pay for his new Firebird Trans Am with the black-on-gold paint treatment and hood scoop with flying eagle logo. He also works at his dad’s woodshop full-time in the day, but on his evenings off, he loves to drive people around doing hot-knives in his muscle car.

He finally arrives about 30 minutes later than expected. Kirk and I get on our coats and join Derek and his friend Curtis who are in the front seat. We sit in the back with the blow-torch.

The plan is to get really stoned and then do “donuts” in the nearby Walmart parking lot, which is covered with ice and snow and is virtually empty tonight, the night before New Year’s Eve. “Doing Donuts” involves accelerating as fast as you can on an icy surface, and then hitting the brakes suddenly in order to be thrown into some heavy g-force curves. We’re all in our late teens, and this feeling is very close to the sex we crave every second of our lives.

donutsDonuts are also called “Round-up” by some people, but I don’t like to use that name since Round-Up is also the name of an insecticide bar we used to put on our lawnmower until we found out that the chemicals in it slow down children’s central nervous systems for up to a decade after contact with the residue. My father starting buying these poison wax bars after seeing an infomercial that showed children being seriously injured by slipping on dandelions. The miracle product, the TV spokesmodel explained, would kill dandelions and keep your kids safe. Everyone on TV that evening agreed that children’s safety was important so the dandelions had to die. Later reports from the Federal Environmental Office warned Round-Up users that the product contained some of the same neurotoxic chemicals that had been dropped on Vietnam, and that dandelions were not, in fact, dangerous at all.

Finally arriving in the parking lot, after ten minutes of rolling the hash into little balls, Derek cranks up his powerful car stereo, and his friend starts the blow torch and hands me the two knives to go first.

Ten hot-knives later, Derek changes the music to a new group called, appropriately, The Cars, and we start to accelerate into our first donut. Weeee! Finally, a kind of thrill you can enjoy with other people that doesn’t involve sharing anything personal or talking about life. What in the world did people do before parking lots, Trans Ams, and hot-knives were invented?

(Note. Any resemblance to real human beings is unintentional. This story – like other Steel City Fruit stories – is purely fictional.)

click for fruit

The Suburban Hearse

April 24, 2017

PBF Suburban Hearse


Miss Glaciermelt leans into her powerpoint presentation, placing her index finger on a large grey square on the terrain view of an old human settlement.

“This large dead area was called a parking lot. It’s where the last generations of humans left their transportation machines when they interacted with shopping and activity centers.”

The teacher notices Cindy’s confused stare.

“Did you read the chapter 7 –The Suburban Hearse – of your Last Days of the Humans textbook, Cind?”

“I did,” Cindy replies. “But I still don’t get the connection between their suburban habitat and the word hearse. A hearse was a machine for moving dead bodies from one place to another many kilometers away. What does this have to do with the low-density sprawl that humans ended their time on Earth in?”

Miss Glaciermelt is glad Cindy has decided to take the second part of her Post-Human Extinction course. Nothing works better as a teaching tool than a live back-and-forth between teacher and student.

“Well, the most popular vehicles of the last years were called SUVs, and they were a lot like hearses in shape and size. Many of them were great for transporting dead humans, though they were originally used by single people for going from one characterless suburban location to another. Ironically, it was the use of these machines and all the fuels that they required that created the need for billions of hearses. The hearses of the last years of Humanity.”

Hearse imageMiss Glaciermelt fidgets with her computer and then plays a short movie-clip while talking over the narrator.

“Over there, two young human boys are driving bicycles that are much too small for them. This harms their knees. And there’s an obese jogger – another end-time human activity that destroyed body parts – knees, ankles and hips. And look at that chubby human mowing a lawn. Noise actually causes obesity but he probably doesn’t know that. Most humans didn’t know very much near the end of their species’ existence.”

Cindy: “Were humans doing all these dumb, harmful activities because of the obesity epidemics or because of the boredom? Or did their slave-like jobs make them clueless?”

Glaciermelt: “Well, it’s not really one reason. All of your reasons were contributing factors: boredom, obesity and lack of freedom. You’re really animated today, aren’t you?”

They both smile.

Cindy: “I noticed that in the footnotes, the narrator talks about – and I quote – ‘the braindead termite-people of the Suburban Shitscape.’ What does he mean by termites? They didn’t go extinct. We still have lots of termites.”

Glaciermelt: “No, termites didn’t go extinct. But I think he’s referring to the fact that humans were consuming the planet the way that termites will eventually kill the tree they live off of. And the word ‘shitscape’ refers to the low-quality and ugly surroundings that end-time humans lived in. The author also mentions that all their machines sounded like chainsaws: lawn-mowers, ski-doos, leaf-blowers, the power tools of weekend gazebo projects… suburbia was one massive chainsaw massacre.”

Cindy: “Maybe the noise and ugliness drove them crazy and they had nothing left to live for?”

Glaciermelt: “Let’s not speculate, Cindy. After all, we weren’t there ourselves.”

click for polar bears

The Rust River Swimming Hole

December 8, 2016



(dedicated to my mother)

Grover McToll moved to Rust River – a comfortable suburb of Steel City – after it had been mostly filled up with bungalows and lawns. So the neighbors looked at his arrival as one-more-car and one-more-lawnmower noise. His house also involved removing the last bit of forest visible from the river where people used to skate and swim. Of course, our own houses had done the same kind of damage to the landscape, but to us, there was no “before us” landscape.

Mr. McToll built his large bungalow in eyeshot of the Rust River swimming hole, a private waterfront lot whose owners allowed their immediate neighbors to swim there when they weren’t using the beach themselves.  They didn’t tolerate outsiders though.

Grover himself never went swimming there or let his kids swim there either. He was way too aspirational middle class for something so savage and white trash. But perhaps to prove his value to his neighbor-a-phobic neighbors, Grover used to police the water hole, especially at night, to make sure no non-neighbors used it. Now, there are no waterside public parks in Rust River whatsoever, so the stream of teenagers looking for a place to smoke a joint and go swimming kept him and his police friends very busy. He saw himself as a kind of property value protector whose target was savage teens smoking dope. And trust me, most of the teens in our suburb were savage.


My best friend at the time, Jimmy McPiper, never learned to swim. Neither did his brothers or sisters. His family were too poor to go to the beach, there were no public pools, no swim programs at our schools, and there was nowhere in Rust River where you could swim for free even though all of Rust River is, at most, a ten-minute bike ride from the swimming hole. There were actually no natural parks of any kind in Rust River, the “green” of Greenwood Drive was found on the lawns and in the money wasted on trampolines and board games.

I sometimes wonder if suburbia was created to make sure no one got to enjoy nature.

(Note. Any resemblance to real human beings is unintentional. This story – like other Steel City Fruit stories – is purely fictional.)

click for fruit

The Ankle-Nibbling Revolution

July 25, 2016

Fake History ankle


A Simple Life

Field mice had been living in Chinatown for a century, surviving mainly on the dropped egg-tarts of shoppers and the ripped garbage bags full of day-old pastry. It was a tough life, but there were some years (1967, 1976) where the life was easy because of a surge in tourism and wasted food. Our protagonist, Roguz, was almost two months old when he developed a technological change that revolutionized the lives of the mice that were affiliated with him and his family.

An Ordinary Day

While babysitting his rascally little nephew Salza, Roguz was forced to leave him alone for a few seconds. When Roguz finally turned around, Salza was nibbling on the ankle of a young human girl. As he approached Salza and told him to stop, a large, half-unfinished egg-tart fell in front of his face, and the scolding was quickly forgotten. This “50% remaining” would feed Roguz’s family for a week.

ankle nibbling


Most mice in Chinatown just work and consume, but Rugoz had a stubborn philosophical side to him, and he went back to the dark corner of the sewer where he was staying and thought about what he had seen. Eureka! A new technology was born – ankle nibbling!

He patented his idea, and then shared it with some select allies (for a price). For the next 3 months, the frantic search for food disappeared from Chinatown’s mouse population, and obesity rates took off – a sure sign of success.

Diminishing Returns

Mice  never seem to be able to predict the consequences of their technological changes. A few years after the ankle-nibbling revolution took off, humans started to notice the uptick in “Mice Terror,” as their newspapers called the phenomenon. The following season, the number of humans visiting Chinatown dropped by two thirds, Local merchants reacted by designing a drop-proof egg-tart box, and by publishing information on how to avoid mouse-nibbling.

Suddenly, there were no more dropped egg-tarts and no garbage bags full of day-old pastry. The mouse population was quickly reduced to less than a third of what it had been before the new technology was introduced. Most of the survivors had to make due with the rotten corpses of other dead animals, road dirt, and sewer runoff. Roguz died a proud old mouse, with prizes and trophies lining his walls, long before the mass starvation of egg-tart-obese mice began, but his nephew survived it and went on to become a preacher.

Click for fake history

Inside the Box

January 4, 2016

sad pet boxes header



Zack is walking ahead of me talking to Zozee, a hairdresser from Martinique who owns five miniature dogs. We’re in his cave-like hair salon even though it’s a sunny day outside. I don’t want to hang around too long, but I understand the importance of seeing friends’ pets. Plus, Zozee’s partner-of-9-years just dumped him, abandoning him in the Gay Village like a dog in a city park.

We go into the undecorated storage half of Zozee’s huge double-roomed basement studio and in the futhest corner from the window, he opens the wooden door of a big, clunky armoir. From the deepest recesses of the armoir, Zozee pulls out a box where five tiny dogs live out their lives in complete darkness, with the rare exception of these occasional visits and daily feedings and  grooming.

sad pet box 200


The dogs seem thrilled to see new life forms and to be able to wobble around aimlessly a bit.  I ask if they’re puppies, but no, they’re not. These adult dogs never leave the box. Their pathetic imprisonment and miserable life of darkness and isolation reminds me of my suburban childhood, and I need  to go outside and feel the sun on my skin.

Around other people.


I pull on Zack’s shirtsleeve, and when he looks at me, I sneer for a second and then look longingly at the window. Exasperated, Zack apologizes to Zozee and says that he needs to “take the boyfriend outside for a walk before he scratches me.”

For the rest of the afternoon, we argue about every aspect of this visit. It starts out being about how ownership and capitalism make us do unnatural things. Then this morphs into a debate about whether pethood is a form  of cruelty. And finally, it’s about whether a boring sex life is what causes most couples to break up.

I believe all these arguments we’ve been having lately are related in some way.

click for sad pets

The Mosquito who wanted to be a Dinosaur

July 22, 2015

PBF mosquito


(From the Cub Club Bedtime Stories collection)

There once was a tiny and desperate mosquito named Ilene. Ilene had always felt like she was destined to be so much more than a tiny, insignificant insect.

Let me tell you more.

It was the hot summer of 147 million years ago, but I remember like it was yesterday.

Ilene Pickworth was a frosh at a local college. Instead of attending classes, she would sit under the college’s huge trees and admire the brute strength and high-status size of the large dinosaurs storming by like SUVs. While Ilene spent many stressful moments of her day avoiding being swatted by appendages many times her size, the large dinosaurs proudly ripped the tops off of huge trees and dined on the sweet leaves that no other land species could reach. It certainly looked glamorous – to a bug with a two-month lifespan and chronic blood-breath.

Squish gothic

Then one morning, Ilene saw an ad in Mosquito’s Digest for a plastic surgeon/geneticist in Argentina who could transform even a tiny mosquito like her into a relatively accurate genetic approximation of a Diplodocus, a giant dinosaur who usually lived past 140. For only a few thousand euros, Ilene could finally buy the dream and live an elite existence that her mosquitohood had denied her only a few easy monthly payments ago.

She almost broke her proboscis, pulling it out rapidly before she flew home to grab her credit card and overnight bag.

The operation was a success. She also got free Diplodocus lessons and a foster family to guide her along. Within a few weeks, she was one of the gang. A happy and gigantic land animal.

Her new species went extinct a few decades later. She never had kids.

** a mosquito flies by**

click for polar bears

The Turtle Gang

January 7, 2015

Fake History turtle


Probably the scariest gang in Lostra City, the Turtle Gang – also know as la Bande de tortues –  was organized in a way that defied any kind of hierarchy or chain of command. Instead, members could simply ask another member to help them, and the other turtle would help. Nobody refused to assist or obey another turtle on the basis of authority or class. It was set up like a cooperative, but with an incredible unity of purpose and a total lack of the kind of divas with exaggerated senses of self importance that can bring down any kind of cooperative project.

Active in things like children’s sports programs and community education, laBande started to get involved in motorized-vehicle attacks the same year that it was noted in the Turtle Voice that over a thousand turtles had been killed by cars and other motorized vehicles in a 12-month period.

The first year of the Tortofada, a thousand random cars (and their drivers) were destroyed by turtles- exactly the same number of turtles that had been killed by cars (and their drivers) the year before. One of laBande’s many spokesmen – Trina Callabaster – told a TV news anchor that her friends were just trying to raise awareness of the callous way that vehicles continue to kill smaller species.

“We never wanted to find ourselves at war with the car. But car operators crush us with their gadgets, and just leave us to die on the sides of their asphalt roads. Every turtle left to bleed to death on the roadside with a broken shell… is an attack on turtlehood – on the very existence of the turtle species.  And the gravel that is often found on the shoulders of the road is perfect for hatching turtle eggs and raising babies, so many newborn turtles watch as their own mothers are destroyed in front of them.”

I love turtles

Humans loved cars more than they loved humans. After the attacks were publicized in human media, the human elites (car dealers, arms dealers, oil dealers, and corrupt banks) went on red alert. Dow and Monsanto shifted billions of government research money into the development of environmental poisons and poisoned foods that would render turtles brain-damaged and physically immobile. The pentagon bought a trillion dollars worth of turtle den busters, a type of experimental chemical and biological bomb that worked especially well on reptiles and amphibians. The major networks began hosting talk shows with themes like “Do we need to kill all turtles in order to have peace?” and “Why do turtles hate progress?”

The imagineers of Hollywood produced over 150 turtle terror movies in just three years, with five of them winning Academy Awards for either best picture or best special effects (a vintage turtle in a microwave sequence won big time last year).

When a turtle carrying an uzi was named Time magazine’s Creature of the Year, the largest human government on the planet vowed to eradicate all the bad turtles using a combination of public awareness campaigns and environmental vandalism. Their plan almost worked until, ten years into it, billions of humans developed side effect illnesses from all Monsanto’s environmental poisons and these new diseases wiped out a quarter of humanity. The turtles of laBande rejoiced and regrouped.

Click for fake history

Michel Foucat interviews Wile E. Coyote

February 26, 2014

Das Qaturday coyote interview

“The wolf is represented as a despicable creature so that its lifestyle can be destroyed with impunity by fable-brainwashed humans.”


MF: Welcome to the show, Mr. Coyote. Now, a lot of the dog breeds we know seem to resemble the wolf. I’m thinking of the Husky and German Shepherd, for example. Have wolves historically been tempted to try a life of domesticated doghood? Perhaps on a temporary basis at first, perhaps guarding some kind of human outpost temporarily for an isolated human pioneer type?

WC: Not on your life. On the surface, it probably looked tempting to many naive wolves because of the reputed longer lifespan of the house dog. But what exactly did this long, long life entail? Sitting on a Disney-themed cushion all day in a human house that smells like antiseptic cleaning products and overly-prepared food? The final response was always an overwhelming no thanks. Prison is prison, and a longer life in one is just a longer sentence.

MF: Well, as a feline that comes from a long line of alley cats, I can relate to what you’re saying.

*smiles and sips a glass of water*

But what about all the human texts about what a dangerous and possibly lethal brute your species was to humans when they existed? I realize human stories about all other animals were always exaggerated and self-serving to their nature-loathing elites. But why was the wolf feared in a particularly strong way by that propaganda-addicted species for so long?

WC: It was mostly about being scapegoated for human enslavement to their own elites and their artifice. Humans always felt vaguely scared and unsatisfied, and their elites were afraid they would end up blaming them. So they got them to blame other species instead. One of their most powerful tools was their texts, of course. And there were a lot of really incendiary human texts written about wolves.

MF: You’re talking about Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs, for example?

WC: Yeah. Particularly Riding Hood. Her “cookies for grandma” persona and hot-button “red coat” made her a portrait of the totally innocent victim of evil. And of course, the wolf plays that evil role so that both her and her grandmother look angelic by comparison. Pure evil versus pure goodness, featuring a red coat. The product placement ought to be a tell-tale sign of where this story is going.

Michel and Wile

MF: You were saying during the commercial break that wolves rarely killed or even approached humans if it was avoidable.

WC: Uh-huh. The only two scenarios that would have lead to a wolf attacking a human were either 1. a female would find her cubs in danger and would lash out to protect them – perfectly normal for all species. Or, 2. A human would attempt to steal the prey of a pack of hungry wolves before they had finished eating it. Humans called this prey “surplus labor” when they stole it from other humans.

MF: Yes, and how is this “surplus labor” concept related to the fables you mentioned?

WC: The wolf is represented as a despicable creature so that its lifestyle can be destroyed with impunity by fable-brainwashed humans. This allowed humans to cut down our forests to build strip malls and suburban bungalows with no other purpose other than to destroy our habitats and, ultimately, our existence.

MF: Yes, a very twisted wordview indeed. To end on a positive note, would you like to tell us about the altered versions of Red Riding Hood that your fifth grade students proposed as better and more accurate moral tales?

WC: Well, I’ll just share the winning one with the audience. Clarence Cano submitted that the story would end with the wolf warning Red Riding Hood that her grandmother had type A diabetes, and that the high-fat, high-sugar cookies were a potential threat to her health. Riding Hood then hits him over the head with her iron basket, and runs off to poison her grandmother with the cookies. Later, when the police arrive to perform an autopsy, it’s revealed that Riding Hood was the old lady’s only heir.

MF: Well Mr. Wile E. Coyote, thanks for coming in to talk to us here at Das Qaturday.

WC: It was my pleasure. I’m a huge fan, Michel.

*audience applauds*


click for more das qaturday

%d bloggers like this: