You have arrived at the front door of Palinode's palace. Some of you have an overnight bag slung over your shoulder. A few of you have brought nothing but a toothbrush sticking out the back pocket of your jeans. That's sweet, but I'm a happily married man. Please make your way through the atrium to the gallery, where a tour is currently in progress.
My name is Aidan. My surname is also a nice trochee, which makes people enjoy saying my full name. For some reason I tend to mumble when I introduce myself, so whenever possible I prompt others to introduce me. I was born in Halifax in 1971. The day was warm and humid, but in the room where I was born, fluorescents gave off a cool and arid light. My father was in the cafeteria at the time, having been told by a nurse that my birth was still several hours off. It turned out that she had lied to him, that she anticipated my arrival but disapproved of the father's presence in the room. Those were distinctly old-fashioned times: the Vietnam War was still on, Halifax was a small and slightly skeevy port city with slum neighbourhoods clustered around the harbour, and I was very very small. We lived on the top floor of a house on Vernon Street near the university campus. A rose bush climbed up to the second story. My biggest fear at the time was the moon, which gazed down through the window with a mournful look that to me somehow signigified ill-will. I also found frightening a small framed picture of a sparrow on a branch that shared my bedroom with me. I'm not sure that I could form the words at the time to tell my parents about the picture and the fear its innocousness raised in me, because it stayed up night after night with me. I had trouble falling asleep in my crib.
My parents had a print of Guernica, but this picture, which should by rights have scared the living shit out of me, I found fascinating. I particulary liked the agonized punch-drunk bull's head that seemed to be struggling out of a press of contorted bodies. Why a picture of a sparrow freaked me out but a print of Guernica aroused my sympathy (I think I felt a bit sorry for the bull), I can't say. Kitsch just gives me the heebie-jeebies.
My first word was 'button'. My second word was 'ball'. Me and the spherical have a long cozy history.
Here you would see a picture of my toddler self if it weren't stuffed in a blue naugahyde photo album in a hutch in my parents' house. I'm in a red bathing suit, sitting in a plastic wading pool. My normal haystack of hair has been dragged into a queer downward wedge by a stream of water tilting down the side of my head. I could also show a black and white photo of myself in mid-air, an infant being tossed to the ceiling by my father. I must have liked it, because I'm grinning like an idiot and holding my hand up to my mouth. Thirty plus years later I look at the photo and I recognize the shape of the grin and the hand-to-mouth gesture. I do it now and it seems that I was doing it then. Unrefined, sure, but I was just getting started.
Between the ages of three and thirty I poked around, moving here, moving there, smoking a lot of cigarettes and basically being very lazy. I exhibited promise for years. I still exhibit promise. At some point in my teens I may have tried to believe in God, but if I did, the attempt didn't take. I had a bad experience with the Columbia Record and Tape Club when I was fourteen, but in my dealings with them I learned that if you ignore a debt long enough, they will eventually wipe the slate clean and send you a letter praising you for your excellent standing with the company. I understood this to be an earthly manifestation of Grace. Based purely on a hunch, I ordered The Smith's Meat Is Murder on cassette, which my parents found pretty excrutiating but I adored. A couple of years later I managed to snag my first serious relationship with a girl by lending her my copy of The Queen is Dead. A couple of months after she returned the tape I slept with her, which I understood was another and purer manifestation of Grace, even though the forgiveness of debts is probably a better thing overall.
At eighteen I moved out to the prairie provinces, which unsettled me. I had never seen a 7-11, never eaten nachos, never walked into a convenience store and seen drinks measured out in ounces. I didn't grow up with cable television, so regular access to American channels was also a new thing for me. The commercials and shows were filled with primary colours and loud happy voices, which brought me to the conclusion that 99% of televsion shows were targeted at children. I made a lot of friends who thought I was eccentric. Every one of my new friends seem to have gone to Bible camp when they were kids, and they all knew a bunch of cheesy campfire songs that praised the lord. In my new city there were no hills, no oceans, and almost no pedestrians - everyone drove from their house to the convenience store and down to the Blockbuster. At my new school there were hazing rituals for frosh, which I had thought was a cliche from American movies. Nope. I was given a frosh but didn't have the slightest idea what to do with him, so I allowed two particularly cruel fifteen year old girls to abuse the guy for a week. People here cruised, hung around in parking lots, smoked pot behind the Burger King, got in fights with guys from the north end of the city, and lived from party to party in various people's basements. I couldn't figure out whether I'd entered the cultural mainstream or been diverted into some cul de sac universe in which all participants were forced to live out American Graffiti every weekend.
In 1993 I met Schmutzie in a coffee shop. She had long red hair with bangs, wore round glasses and heavy long-sleeved shirts that covered her wrists and left her fingers poking out. Chiefly I remember her eyes, which seemed somehow to be open wider than other people's and coloured a curious grey-green. Whenever she had a point to bring up she would crank her eyes even wider, which gave her a perpetual look of urgency, as if she had just returned from abroad with vital information. For some reason she reminded me of Bailey from WKRP in Cincinatti. We held off dating for seven years - a complicated tale of moving away, chance meetings, shaved heads and nights listening to Dar Williams - but once we started dating we decided we may as well go whole hog and get married.
From 1999-2006 I was involved in the dynamic world of independent television production. I ended up producing a television show that somehow shows in sixty different countries around the world. How this has happened, I cannot say. People will watch anything.
I left television in mid-2006 and went to work for the provincial government. I work in Communications, because producing a television show proved insufficiently weaselly.
In Palinode's Palace is a continuation of my first weblog, The Palinode, which was hosted by the good folks at Diaryland. I started The Palinode at the height of my fascination with Richard Nixon, although you probably wouldn't know it from reading my entries. After a year I began to feel that I had run out of things to say on that site, so I went and built In Palinode's Palace, which for whatever reason seemed to suit my temperament better. At the time I envisioned the site as a repository for brief observations, epigrams, quotes, links - basically one of those weblogs that looks a bit like a lumber room or a trash heap, fun to pick through briefly but not something to return to. After a while I found that I couldn't jot down a sentence or two and leave it at that, having been cursed with a need to clarify everything, and after a month or so my entries began to resemble the pieces I put up on my first site.
The word palinode refers to a specific mode of classical poetry in which statements or themes from an earlier poem are retracted or clarified. It has come to mean, loosely, any formal retraction or recantation. I first ran across the word in Matei Calinescu's Five Faces of Modernity, in which Calinescu characterizes the palinode as a dominant strategy of postmodernism. Correction and retraction have moved from the margins to the foreground, as we assume authority and question it all at once. Or maybe it's a means of slyly asserting power? You heard it here first: You have come to the front door of Palinode's Palace and it turns out you've been living here all along. And that is the third and final manifestation of earthly Grace.