Monday, March 24, 2014

Japanese Schoolgirls.

(Ai Himeno/Tu Foto.)

Ian Cooper

Corson Bell’s biceps ached, and the back of his neck was stiff. He had the leisure to admire the graceful shape of a seagull passing overhead, head cranked and eye cocked to examine this oddity.

The arc of the St. Griselda bridge loomed on the horizon.

Rolling onto his side, he continued on with a slow and careful side-stroke.

The key to making his goal was patience.

His breathing was still good, and while there was some burning in the arms and in the gut, his legs were very strong after cycling through the spring and into the summer.

You don’t see too many other fifty-four year-old men out here, he told himself.

Their wives won’t come with them, and they won’t let them poor bastards out alone, either. That was his assessment.

They just sat in front of the TV, watching garbage and keeping any thoughts they had to themselves.

Chilly as it was, the water was tolerable as long as the day was sunny and the wind not too strong.

Today, the wind was from the south and thus perfect, with the water flat and calm. With little or no wave action, he made good progress.

The third corrugated steel breakwater loomed off of his left shoulder. He went back into his own personal dog-paddle, which he had studied and developed according to his unique needs. The trouble with the crawl was that the swimmer had to put their face into the water, and the sheer physical coordination required in breathing properly was the one thing he had never been able to master.

Yeah. I’m going to make it.

No point in stopping now.

That’s just letting yourself down, Buddy.

Forty metres more and that would be it. He slowed up, resting between strokes, only the lower legs kicking around in big circles like the screws on a ship. He’d never seen anyone do that before, but it worked for Corson. When his knees gave a twinge, he would switch over to something else…

This way he could at least see where he was going. It wasn’t fast, but Corson was strong and he generally got where he wanted to go.

Corson had everything from arthritis in his left elbow, twinges in his knees first thing in the morning or when going up stairs, and in winter, in a general sense, those twinges came more regularly.

His lower back problems stemmed from youthful sporting injuries. A defiant exuberance and some natural male competitiveness was a part of his make-up, but the cold water sucked a lot of pain out of the body and at the same time natural buoyancy held him up.

It was good exercise for one who had once contemplated life in a wheelchair, dependent upon the charity and goodwill of a system that he had found ignorant and insensitive as soon as he came into contact with it.

“You’ll never walk again.”

“Fuck you, doctor. When I want your opinion, I’ll beat it out of you."


That was no way to be.

They were just trying to help you adjust to life in a wheelchair.

And fuck them bastards too.

With careful breathing and lungs full of air, it took little work to stay afloat. Corson had some skill in perception management, as well as a cautious but accurate assessment of his own personal abilities, which meant that he was now arriving…


He dropped his feet to the rippled sand. Corson stood in about four feet of crystalline Lake Huron water, the beach a hundred feet off to his left. He had some pain, but no worse than when he was doing nothing—laying in bed a little too long in the morning would do the same thing.

“Oh, wow. Huh.”

There was no reason to hurry. He could see his stuff up the beach and there was no one around.

Breathing heavily, and staggering more than once when he arrived at the band of rounded rocks at the water’s edge, Corson used his hands like a squeegee, pushing back and squeezing the excess water out of his limited hair.

His shoes, towel and glasses, his wallet and keys, were a full three hundred metres up the beach to the east of his landing.

He had no idea of how long it had taken to swim three hundred metres, and cared even less.

Corson picked his way along the shore in water ranging from ankle to shin-deep, the sun warming him up and drying him off as he went.

Yeah, man, this was eminently worth it.      

There were a couple of small families with beach blankets, and small children playing at the water’s edge with brightly-coloured plastic pails and shovels. This water was much warmer, warmed by the sun and trapped to some extent by the breakwaters protruding into the lake twenty or thirty metres in some cases.

He nodded politely at eye contact when it came, and ignored the rest as they would probably wish.

Corson came to his place, and picked up the towel, which covered his shoes and personal items.

There was no one right near him. He had a kind of privacy, or at least no one right there, in his face. A further hundred yards east, up the beach, the city provided lifeguards and supervision as well as volleyball nets and a small concession stand. There might have been a hundred people on that short stretch, about two hundred metres overall.

To the west, stretching for about a kilometre, it was still a public beach, with a line of dunes behind it and a long parking lot.

It was a safe and friendly place. It was a small town, and by the standards of other places, it might appear almost deserted, even neglected by the local inhabitants, perhaps not truly appreciating the jewel this beach represented.

Corson, a single man in his fifties, rubbed the towel around his face, eyes and upper body, mostly, and then dried his hands. It was a warm enough day and after cycling ten kilometres, his body core temperature would be nicely lowered.

The ride home would be no real trouble.

He pulled a smoke out of the pack and lit it up, with the towel around his neck.

Life was okay sometimes, he had to admit that.

His heart-rate was almost back to normal already, and his breathing was much-improved compared to how it had been at the end of a long, cold, and dark winter.

The only problem with late June, when the days were incredibly long and the nights were short, warm and wonderfully inviting to the more adventurous, was that it meant spring was over. Summer would never be long enough and then it would be late September. Spirits tended to ebb on contemplating another winter, and that was that—it was over.

Corson stood at the water’s edge, watching the young people taking sailing lessons a kilometre out.

He’d taken sailing lessons himself, at about fourteen years of age.

High voices and nervous giggling came from somewhere behind him.

Exhaling a long jet of pale smoke, he turned to be confronted by a gaggle of Japanese schoolgirls, by the looks of them.

His mouth opened and closed. It must be a bus tour or something.

They must have parked over the hill and came down his little trail. He liked to keep an eye on his bike, and of course he had a couple of water bottles clipped on there too.

He grinned as they stared at him in a kind of awe. They were two feet higher than him, up the sloping sand, but the impression he conveyed must have been completely fascinating.

Corson tended to forget that he was almost six-foot-six tall. He was all tanned up, slimmer now that he had lost twenty-two and a half pounds by dint of pure sacrifice and hard effort. He didn’t take it the wrong way, they were just tourists. But the fact was that he’d cut out junk food for six months or a year or so, and was only drinking ten or twelve beers a month.

Hmn. Nice ladies.

It was kind of flattering, actually. Corson had seen some guy at the mall who had to be all of six-foot nine, towering above him by easily three or four inches. When that happened it was always humbling to realize that it was humiliating in some inexpressible fashion to be short. And it made him wonder, if he abused his own size, in any measurable way, in his dealings with his fellow human beings.

If a person had an advantage, then of course they would use it.

His question was whether he had abused it.

Corson was the philosophical sort.

One girl said something and he realized she had just snapped a cell-phone picture of him. Corson thoughtfully chucked the cigarette well off to one side, so it wouldn't show in the pictures.

He smiled, and pulled the towel from his shoulders.

“Hi, ladies. Welcome to Canada. I must say, you’re all looking very lovely today.”

Another one said something and lifted her camera-phone.

Corson held up a hand and then tossed the green terrycloth towel well away, onto the dry gravel-bar underfoot.

He took a classic David pose, all ready to sling a big rock at Goliath, and they tittered and giggled, and then they were all doing it. Swimming in shorts was better for personal modesty  than a banana-suit. He found the slight chub this attention instilled a bit of a personal revelation but, oh, well.

Corson changed over into a shot-putter’s stance, and then did his best Bruce Lee impersonation, fists clenched in front of his midriff, chin down and glaring theatrically at the girls, with his wiry frame bulging and rippling, cut with sharp tendon lines and bulging veins in the forearms and all over the backs of his hands.

The killer was when he turned, grinned at them over his shoulder and with his knees cocked as if frozen in the sprinting position, twitched his butt-cheeks at them, first the right and then the left.

He held a classic left arm bicep display as he did it, to appreciative comments from the young women, all of them madly snapping away. They were checking the resulting shots and then commenting amongst each other in what he was pretty sure was Japanese. They seemed to cover their mouths a lot and it turned out Japanese girls could actually blush.

But then, so could Corson, and he did, too.


They laughed right back.

He relaxed for a second, enjoying the moment and the laughs along with them.

Surely one of them must speak English. They all had shoulder bags, some wore ball caps and one or two wore sunglasses. It was the school uniform that was a bit off in terms of beach wear.

A small one darted over and stood beside him, looking up with her mouth wide open in sheer amazement. 

She was chattering away, a mile a minute.

She was on his left side.

With exaggerated care, Corson reached around behind her. He took her left shoulder in his big left hand, spanning eleven and an eighth inches when spread wide, and her right shoulder in his right hand, spanning ten and three-quarter inches. Corson was not the most symmetrical of men. He leaned in and faced the cameras as they snapped and shouted and giggled.

She waved happily and bounced up and down. Finally, he let her go. She snapped a quick picture up at him from her close angle and then stood off while another two came over and took her place.

Corson laughed at their audacity. He pulled them in close, one on each side. One of their friends ran up and took a camera, a real one this time, from the girl on his right. She stood in front, twenty feet away, and carefully framed the shot as Corson took a good breath, extended his spine to its full length, feeling a couple of pops and snaps down low as he did. He went all rigid and puffed out all of his muscles, a ludicrous concept considering his actual skinny frame, but it was all in good fun.

What the hell. He was in okay shape, or so he thought. What it might look like from their perspective was a different thing entirely.

It was all part of the entertainment around here, and ludicrous by anyone’s standards.

It was all part of the act.

His belly was flat and his face calm, composed and confident, as the girl took a couple of exposures. Then she had to have her turn.

“So it’s like that, eh?”

With the girl squealing, Corson bent quickly and scooped her up. It was the me-Tarzan, you-Jane thing.

He looked seriously at the line-up of girls, and she laughed and giggled and said things as her arm came around behind his neck.

They snapped and pointed and called encouragement to their friend as Corson grinned down into her eyes.

It was no big deal. She couldn’ have weighed over a hundred pounds. A bundle of shingles, no more, and a lot nicer-looking. She smelled okay too.

Finally, he put her down.

“No, no! Ladies! Puh-lease.”

He waved off two more, and bent to pick up his towel. Chuckling, he found he was a little out of breath after all.

All that excitement, he thought.

He moved up towards where his shoes and wallet were, and the group sort of reoriented itself to watch his passing. They were still taking pictures.

Corson was a bit relieved that he couldn’t understand what they were saying, and at the same time, the tone and the hilarity sort of invited speculation.

“Thank you sir!”

“Thank you!”

“Bye, now!”

“We love Canada!”

He looked a taller one in the eye.

“I’m beginning to suspect that some of you guys might speak English after all.”

She nodded, and put her hand over her mouth, giggling still.

His look and the sudden snort he made sort of said it all, didn’t it? He gave her her own personal wave goodbye.

“Bye girls.”

Might as well make the best of it, Corson thought, as he caught the eye of an older woman. She had her own camera and was shepherding the group up another trail a little further up the beach.

He waved goodbye and then pulled his ball cap on to keep the sun out of his eyes.

The last of them were just disappearing over the brow of the hill.

One of the girls had forgotten her bag. It was right there on the dry gravel-bar.

He had just picked it up and was scuttling up the hot sand towards the tree line when a sweet young thing came back down the path.

He gave it to her and she bobbed her head and spoke.

Corson’s eyes met hers and then she pressed something white into his hand. This one apparently didn’t speak English. Whatever she said sounded nice enough.

It was like butterflies walking around on your balls, quite stirring in its effect.

Turning, off she went back up the trail.

He watched her go. Corson was in no hurry today, or any day, really.

They were pretty darned cute, in those plaid skirts, with the white blouses and stockings and black velvet shoes with the square silver buckles on them.

He reckoned he could eat a whole bowlful of them.

Taking another look, he saw she had given him a free ticket to some sort of musical performance. They were from a city he had never heard of, but it was a symphony orchestra and the performance was Sunday evening at the public library.

Hmn. Backstage pass, meet and greet. Wine and cheese.

That one might be worth checking out.


“A schoolgirl uniform fetish is a sexual fetish in which someone derives sexual pleasure from viewing others dressed in the typical uniform of a schoolgirl (with either a school skirt or culottes,) or from themselves dressing in that manner. The schoolgirl uniform fetish is common in both Japanese and Western pornography, prostitution, and other forms of adult entertainment, making it one of the most widespread clothing-oriented fetishes worldwide.

“The schoolgirl image may appeal to women because it allows them to project a more youthful, innocent, or virginal image. These same reasons can explain part of the look's appeal to males as well. It may also have a less sexual aspect of nostalgia, recalling memories of a simpler time in one's life. Indeed, fetishes often start to develop at puberty, when for males schoolgirls often feature as objects of desire which (particularly where men attended all-boys schools) were seemingly unattainable. Often the contrast of a fully developed woman in a 'childlike' role is appealing, in the same manner as other forms of sexual role-playing.

“In practice, the schoolgirl role is usually one which is sexually compliant or playfully ‘naughty’ and submissive, while the schoolgirl's partner plays an adult authority figure such as a parent, teacher, or stern principal. This can include fantasies or re-enactments of childhood events including corporal punishments such as spanking, school canings, or paddling, etc.”


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Depression 101: Suffering.

Vincent Van Goght, 1890.

Ian Cooper

For the last four days, I have been sick as a dog.

It’s not the flu. It’s not a cold. It’s not tonsillitis or my appendix.

It’s depression.

Like any other illness, whether it’s a temporary one or a life-long affliction, it tends to rule your life, sometimes for a few days, or maybe for the rest of your life. Like any other serious illness, it can also take your life.


Normally I’m a pretty cheerful and optimistic person, or maybe, I would just like to think so.

But when the blackness descends upon me, I seem like a different person.

Hey, everybody—this isn’t the guy we thought we knew.

What the hell happened there?

I didn’t know he was like that...he always seemed like such a nice guy.


My mom can always tell. She can tell by my voice when I answer the phone.

The thing with depression is when it goes on too long. One of the symptoms is irritability.

What this means is that a person is quick to flash into anger.

Anger is the 800-pound gorilla, always lurking in the back of your depression. You fear it as much as anyone else. It is your gorilla and it belongs to you. You know very well how strong it is and what it can do.

That’s the thing isn’t it?

Because you know what it can do—you’ve seen it before. You’ve also seen and endured the consequences. 

Not just for yourself, which might almost be okay, but for other people too—including your friends and loved ones.

One of the personal consequences of a big blow-up is a lowering of a person’s self-regard.

Most of us like ourselves, most of the time, right?

It’s a simple feedback loop of perceptions and emotions. You feel like shit, you act like a shit, you say a few stupid and shitty things. The next day, maybe when you’re actually starting to feel better, you realize what a shit you might have been the day before. And yet it’s all because of the illness, which is to some degree beyond your control…and that’s when the patient gets to feel shame.

You can’t seem to control yourself, young man. What are we going to do with you?

That anger can get you in a lot of trouble, and it can cause a lot of trouble

Anger is a natural emotion, there’s nothing contrived or artificial about it. It’s real, and the average person accepts that.

Shame is as natural as anger, or happiness, or the pleasure of eating barbecued steak.

We evolved in a social environment where a certain amount of biological control developed over time in order to perpetuate the species. Our bodies are equipped to feel the physical symptoms of shame—turning red in the face for example. Shame is an important adjunct of any form of social control. We still use it that way today, and we still do it to ourselves and others.


Is depression real?

Perception is reality, isn’t it? We have to accept what our senses are telling us—that a flower is pretty, (or at least that there is in fact a flower there), the wind is cold, the sand under my bare feet is gritty, my stomach is too full…or maybe, for whatever reason, I feel like shit today.

Depression is a physical illness. It has physical symptoms.

I noticed the other day that my face looked completely different in the mirror, although it is obviously the same person. A couple of days before, I didn’t look so bad.

My face seemed haggard, drawn, every line, wrinkle and jowl were all tending downwards, the eyes were dull and listless…all the signs of a very tired or very dispirited man. My shoulders were sagging and the belly was in full blossom. All I had to do was stand up straight, when you think about it.

It’s like I’ve aged a few years. I look thinner in the face this morning. I’ve probably lost ten or fifteen pounds over the winter. I haven’t been binge eating, which was something I might have done a lot more of in the past. I haven’t been pounding back the beers, either, and in the past that might have been one of my little coping strategies. Normally, I would gain weight in the winter, and that’s been the case for a decade anyway. 

This year, it’s like I’m slowly wasting away.

Here's an important point: in order to avoid depression, which includes sleep and eating disruptions, is to get proper food, and get proper rest.

This is tough when your circumstances might not be the best.


Right now I don’t have any ideas. I haven’t written more than 1,000 words of fiction in four days. I don’t even know where that story is going or what it’s about.

This fuels the depression further.

They say writing can be cathartic.

If that’s true, it really ought to look more like this: AHHHHHHHHH!!!


Stuff like that, right?”

But that’s why, (and I know this is a depressing subject), writing a little bit about depression sure isn’t going to harm me. For one thing, it means I’m at least working, and if I’m not working, then I am just another unemployed guy.

And unemployment, as everybody knows, is depressing.

But then, life sucks in general sometimes, doesn’t it? Life circumstances are one of two major causes of depression. The other is genetics, simple heredity.

We can only hope that it will end at some point and in the meantime we just try to endure—because to survive it is important.


I think depression is triggered by external events to some degree. Your life was going along all right, you had no major problems, and some little thing goes wrong, and then that spiral downwards begins.

No one has a perfect life, but in some ways I tend to avoid irritations. That’s not always possible, but of course deep down inside I must have connected it with irritability—getting angry.

It’s an avoidance strategy, rather than a coping strategy. I think that’s why depressed people tend to isolate themselves. For one thing, they probably don’t want to bring other people down—and neither are they enjoying the simple everyday activities that others take for granted.

And so they keep to themselves, avoid socializing, and over time even get a little paranoid—one of the best reasons for talking it out that I can give.

My personal opinion, is that in the majority of mass shootings, in malls, movie theatres and schools and such, the root cause is a profound depression, one that has gone on far too long and been left untreated.


One of the ways to get out of depression is to do something. Anything is better than sitting around looking at the walls and wondering why everybody hates you. For one thing, it’s not true, and for another, you are feeding your own depression.

And the longer I let that depression go on, unchecked, and just let it eat at me, the more likely I am to go, or do, or say something stupid. That’s my big weakness, isn’t it?

Shooting my mouth off and being full of them negative waves, Moriarity.

That is why it is important to talk it out, as far as I’m concerned.


Once or twice someone has said something about my remarkable sense of humour.

That’s not a gift of heredity. It’s a coping strategy, and it comes from suffering, ladies and gentlemen. 

Everyone has some sense of humour, but then everyone who has ever been born has also suffered, haven’t they?

Suffering is a universal element in the human experience.

That one’s a frickin’ no brainer.


One of the neat things about being a writer is that you can express yourself, and a joke or a good line is a kind of story-telling.

He came by it honestly enough.

That’s a little private joke we have around here, ladies and gentlemen.

I guess you could say the same thing about almost anybody; and it’s not even an insult.