Excerpt from Oscar of Between, Part 17D
Eager to sit at the top of the spiral stairs – sip her tea in sun’s caress – Oscar heads for the kitchen. Hears that the women next door are already smoking and talking on their balcony. On the fulcrum of post-Friday night & pre-Saturday night, Oscar notes how their conversation is animated with possibilities.
Never one for group feeding in the morning, Oscar heads down the hall. Eats cereal in sleepy shadows of front balcony. Back in kitchen to prepare tea, Oscar hears abrupt halt in conversation. Ahh! They have gone back inside. Carrying her tea down to the garden, she catches a glimpse – they’re still there – oddly quiet. Snatching another glimpse she sees each is bent over something on the little table, transfixed. Reading books? Then Oscar sees reflected light on one’s face. Oh, Oscar, you writing fool: not books. Mirrors! Each putting on makeup with such intensity it embarrasses her.
Oscar averts her eyes. Drinks tea awkwardly. Quickly returns to the front balcony for second cup.
Half an hour passes. Silence. Oscar decides to check it out: takes the compost down to garden. The two are still there. Utterly preoccupied as they make-up for their deficiencies with a sense of plumaged hope.
On that fateful YWCA summer camp’s canoe trip, Oscar realized she wasn’t a “girl” when the other girls set their alarm clocks 20 minutes early to put on their makeup. Realized there was no remedy. No viable camouflage. Girl? Boy? Oscar was neither either. Nor wishing to be.
Light-filled morn. Oscar walks down to Multimags to buy Sunday edition of The New York Times. July 22, 2011, Norway: a “Christian Extremist” (camouflaging himself in a policeman’s uniform) gains easy access to a small island. Kills 76 people. All but two are youth at a summer camp for politically active young adults.
Horror rises up in Oscar. The self-proclaimed Norwegian hero of the war against multiculturalism, feminists and Muslim immigrants, posts a 1,500-page manifesto and video of himself – in war camo with semi-automatic rifle – a couple of hours before his attack.
This is it.
– it’s you or me –
One survivor, a Sri Lankan-born 23-year-old who moved to Norway at age three, is quoted as saying the camp had been
“the safest place in the world.”
Three years later. Twenty-two-year-old California student posts a lengthy manifesto detailing his hatred of women and racial minorities. Next night he posts a YouTube video before killing three Asian roommates, thee women students, wounding thirteen others. Then – surrounded by police – kills himself. His father a unit director of The Hunger Games.
Yesterday. Corner of Commercial Drive and Broadway – older aboriginal man holds up white T-shirt for sale with black block letters:
the way water scores the land, the way water
breaks out from over to interior. the way place
racinates. in land’s wake. the way
the shape of the world makes
the fluid you. the world
that turns. the world worded
against the world. the words
you turn around in the scored world.
the words. post-racial. land andcolonization schedules out
like a crack turns
into an echo of a map
beating to windward
through a pane of glass; after the encounter
of tough and transparent; the autochthon
to conquest; the materials
of faceless imposition unendure
in the elements that brave usgenres abrade. evince sharply asymmetrical
cultural hierarchies. inspire. counter-voices dually engaged. natives
of a late colony. traditions storytelling state-of-the-nation paged.
oration. merged. expository burning. mercantile
prophecies shuffle eras. the first flush
of occupation. the first emergence of a mixed.
epic. duplicitous co-polemic
metropolises, the Pacific Northwest,
the last part of the Americas, settler preemption, and plague infection,
19th rather than 17th, delayed, accelerated
manner, entrepreneurs for the colonial
project, a matter
of one colonial office (London) managing a mixture,
to colonize a mix of subject, one hundred
plus languages alone.
with modernism, individualism, the latter
of the former.
neither “race management from below” nor historical site de rigeur. Alteration and
adaptation — whether or not they fit the official colonial or national ideologies — are
the ipso facto impulses of the region. past its incipience, a regional set of relations
arisen out of response — a polyvalence. such terrain, such shifting.
everything here is unique and nothing here is unique.
the elements of history, the evolutions of arrival. your image
overtop a very present don’t-fit; indeed — always — in short — exemplify
Gail Marlene Schwartz
I read Oscar’s Salon because…
I read Betsy’s book, Breathing the Page, and I was deeply moved and greatly inspired. As an interdiciplinary artist preoccupied with community, I continue my own exploration about how to weave new strands of creativity together to make new kinds of conversations that emerge from this rapidly changing world. With multiple voices, visual art, explorations in language and surprising choices in subject matter, Oscar Salon is a newly discovered treasure for me and I greatly appreciate the chance to co-create.
Gail Marlene Schwartz is an interdisciplinary artist living in Montreal. She is interested in using stories as connective tissue for creating progressive social change. Her essay, “Loving Benjamin,” was published in the anthology, How To Expect What You’re Not Expecting (TouchWood Editions, 2013); the piece was also awarded Honourable Mention from Room Magazine, creative nonfiction category, 2012. Her short story, “Inside, Crying” was a finalist for the 2014 Malahat Review Open Season Award for fiction. Her play, Crazy: One Woman’s Search for Sanity, was published in the anthology, Hidden Lives (Brindle and Glass, 2012). Gail’s writing has also appeared in Sundays@6, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Poetica Magazine, Quiet Mike, Community Arts Network, Parents Canada, GO Magazine, Gay Parent, and Ms. Guided (Issue #07). She is a member of Promito Playback, a bilingual ensemble practicing Playback Theatre. Gail and her wife, Lucie, are proud parents of four-year-old Alexi.
like a slap in the face this morning entering oscar salon with anticipation/ trepidation—like ice-cold water too waking me up from cozy slumber hiding from raw reality—being other is lethal. is human history always on replay or will our fracturing of the earth to maintain our oil-based economies force a new play. courageous i’d say to you oscar—courageous wayde—courageous gail for not camouflaging who you are. thank you.
I keep thinking of the juxtaposition of different sorts of camouflage. The function of camouflage is to disguise onself as the environment, to be safe and protected from visibility. Camouflage: to blend in, to be unseen, crypsis. The young girls apply their makeup in a lengthy process (camouflage for their insecurities?), but camouflage also signifies war and violence. The shooter in Norway wears camouflage in his manifesto, to be portrayed with a reference to battle. An enclothed cognition of war and violence.
When I first sat down to read and comment, the mention of the Norway and California shootings was raw and real. Outside my house, minutes later, a shooting occurs. On the concrete, blood, broken glass, shell casings and police tape were all remnants of the violence. Shootings are shown in a blitz for a short while, but then, we are supposed to move on, everything back to normal, despite how disturbing the violence and hatred. Here, Oscar doesn’t forget what happened, doesn’t become desensitized.
until Oscar writes about
the thing that’s been on my mind all week.
Surprised to read your post as I spent last week noticing how prevalent camouflage still is: the types of men who wear it, the type of articles – bags, knapsacks, ball caps, pants, shorts, vests – and this was on BC Ferries. And then a make-up bag sticking out of a purse, the perfect metaphor that initially escaped me. I looked up the art and science of camouflage.Found a scandal as a result of the wrong camouflage being approved, prematurely, in the U.S. Military, and how the wrong camouflage can be, in combat, a matter of life and death. How whether the degree to which we fit in the world can require too great a camouflage for our spirit to bear.
who isn’t camouflaged? we see with our brains, our memories and knowledge. no one can truly see us and we can’t see them, there’s too much of ourselves in the way. what we think we see is a peek into our souls, and perhaps that’s what makes it so compelling. perhaps that’s one of the reasons we like to read.
Camo is contrary to being. The sad side of having to choose when we are built with inherent ‘will to be’ and so quickly loose the concept of ‘being.’ Even the perceived ‘many’ who self define a mass notion of being are internally marginalized with anxiety and rules. Is the disintegration of mass definition nascent as global re-defining in both the personal and public realms rises? Do humans need to be pushed near self destruction to develop a consensus that being alive constitutes a right to be? Consensus of course being the lowest common denominator in decision making.
& I failed to mention Wade Compton’s spiral of sadness. The word – logic and reason as defined by humans who create the definition and call it right.
Camouflage originated in well-define communities and was used only for specific purposes such as celebrations, rituals, war. Community members knew when it was employed and what exact purpose it played. Camouflage is now pervasive in Western culture. It is employed in such an astonishing array of forms that it is often impossible to recognize or accurately identify what purpose it serves; what message it signals. Of central concern (but by no means only) to Oscar are the increasing numbers of North America men who wear camouflage when randomly (Denver) or selectively (Moncton) killing people. Do they form a kind of army? If so, what kind of army is it?
Also, for a time, some navies used something called “dazzle camouflage”, which was strangely beautiful for something attached to such terrifying tools of warfare: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dazzle_camouflage