Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 21, No. 4, 2022
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Jason McDonald
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David Solway
Louis René Beres
Nick Catalano
Chris Barry
Don Dewey
Howard Richler
Gary Olson
Jordan Adler
Andrew Hlavacek
Daniel Charchuk
  Music Editor
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
  Photographer Jerry Prindle
Chantal Levesque Denis Beaumont
Emanuel Pordes
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Charles Tayler
Naomi Klein
Arundhati Roy
Evelyn Lau
Stephen Lewis
Robert Fisk
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Michael Moore
Julius Grey
Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Navi Pillay
Ernesto Zedillo
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Nayan Chanda
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward





It had been a tiring day (for a retiree): tennis in the morning, shopping/cooking for dinner (my turn), and now, a long afternoon walk to my local library branch, to return a book that was due in a few days. So, after sending the book down the ‘Returns’ chute, when I spotted a vacant armchair, I pounced (in a matter of speaking).

My plan was to rest a bit before trekking home. But all those busy people, reading or pecking away at computers, made me think I should take out a book, even though I was in the middle of a good one (Coleridge, Early Visions, by Richard Holmes). On the other hand, if I started scanning the shelves, I might well lose my armchair, the only vacant one.

Then, I spotted a new mystery novel by a Polish author I liked. Since it was practically staring at me, from about five feet away, I got up, grabbed it, and plopped back down.

The opening pages were unpromising. Apparently, the supermarket, where Chief Inspector Gotkowski shopped, was experiencing a spate of shoplifting. While the detective, a bachelor, selected tonight’s TV dinner and six-pack, the Manager, with whom he often chatted, bemoaned the problem.

This ho-hum opening suggested that the author had been milking her formula for too long. She now faced the dilemma so many artists face, when the shelf life of their ‘brand’ expires. There may be “no frigate like a book,” but this, the eleventh instalment in the Inspector Gotkowski series, promised to be a ponderous cruise ship bound for a familiar destination.

Slogging through a few more pages, I read how the Polish sleuth, in his usual clever way, was trolling for clues. As the Manager explained, most of the theft was taking place in the produce department, where there were two new employees. At that point, I realized my head was about to slump down onto my chest.

It was time to leave. If I nodded off, I knew, the bored security guard would be on me like white-on-rice (although he is ‘black’ and I am ‘white’). I had witnessed his alarming method of awakening the poor homeless people who fell asleep in his domain: a loud rap of his nightstick on the arm of their chair, inches from their head. Since I did not want this to happen to me, I considered getting up, putting the book back in place, and leaving. But the prospect of the long slog home was still daunting, so I decided to rest for just a few more moments in my comfortable chair. I was awakened by the thud of the hard-backed tome onto the industrial carpet, and the sharp pain caused by its collision with my shin, on the way down.

“Ow!” I cried, provoking loud shh-ing from a librarian and several fellow patrons. The wall clock gave me another shock: I had been asleep for eleven minutes. Where had the security guard gone?

Then, I spotted him, hitching up his pants as he hurried from the men’s Room, which is in a back corner of the library. Getting up, I staggered a bit, from my customary dizziness. Then, I picked up the book, returned it to its place, and left the building.

Out on the sidewalk, I Instinctively reached for my wallet, which I always carried in my front left pants pocket. This, despite my wife’s warning that pickpockets would find that pocket easy . . . well . . . pickings. But, since she carried her own wallet in a zippered shoulder bag, what did she know? Besides, I’m stubborn: I like to figure things out for myself.

The wallet, alas, was missing! My first thought was that, when I nodded off, it might have fallen into the armchair. My second thought was that one of the other patrons might already have spotted it and swooped down like a vulture. Frantically, I checked my other pockets. Nothing. The wallet was gone.

As soon as I rushed back inside, however, the library gods smiled on me: my armchair was still vacant, and right there, in the back left corner, sat my dear old wallet. Since it was black, it was barely visible on the dark-blue cushion. Was that why it was still there?

Checking that none of the cash, cards, etc. were missing, and having learned my lesson, I carefully zipped the wallet into the inside pocket of my windbreaker. Then, feeling a bit guilty for having assumed that a fellow patron had robbed me, I left the building for a second time. As I stumbled home, patting my jacket pocket every few steps, for some reason I flashed not on having nodded off at the library, and not on my lost-and-found wallet, but on a scene from a few days before.

Having been reading my book (the Coleridge) at the main library branch on a brisk and sunny fall day, I carried my bag lunch out to Bryant Park. Amidst the welter of construction for the upcoming holiday selling season, I found a vacant, sunny bench. (My wife and I call these holiday booths ‘the tents of the wicked.’)

When I had eaten my frugal meal of cheese and crackers, I found myself studying other people’s footwear, probably in order to keep from nodding off. It struck me that many passersby wore the same heavy boots as the construction workers. It seemed incongruous that men and women in power suits would wear work boots. Idly, I now wonder whether any of these suits-in-boots might also be produce purloiners.










Arts & Opinion, a bi-monthly, is archived in the Library and Archives Canada.
ISSN 1718-2034


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