by Thomas Trofimuk


A is for Ass - I know. You barely know me and here I am being all potty mouthed. Sorry about that. This particular ass was sitting four rows behind me at a Lyle Lovett concert a few weeks back. And despite the numerous warnings and pleadings to not take flash pictures, she snapped away willy-nilly throughout the concert. The flash on her camera has a range of about 30 feet. We were a good 120 feet from the stage. She was basically taking pictures of the backs of our heads. One would have hoped that given the ubiquity of digital cameras, that she would have noticed her repeated and somewhat dedicated failures to capture Lyle Lovett on her camera's LCD screen.

B is for Book - A Kindle is not a book. A Sony reader is not a book. A book does not have to be plugged in. A book involves paper and ink - there is a tactile past, present and future in a book. When I am on page 73, I can see the pages I have read, feel them, and smell them if I want - they have a physical presence in my world. I can easily and lovingly grasp the journey I've been on. And the future is there in the following 300 pages. I can see where I'm about to go. The present? Well, that's page 73, about the middle - the section where Sarah decides to leave the Mormon Church and take up drinking whisky - I've got a piece of paper torn from my journal as a book mark. There is pleasure in this "knowing," for me. I find joy in this tactile journey as well as the emotional/cerebral journey hidden in those strung-together words.

Don't get me wrong. I like change. Change is inevitable so why not cozy up. And I think the idea of toting around 1,500 novels in a Kindle or Apple's iPad is brilliant but books are the superior media. The fonts are crisp and clean and easy to read, always. Not so for the electronic books. Reading a book is rarely hard on your eyes. Not so for the electronic books. Books are low-maintenance. They do not require plugging in. Books don't have screens that can get scratched. I can read a book in the bathtub without worrying about being zapped. I can read a book in a swimming pool in Mexico or in a hot tub at my sister's house. The printed page continues to be the superior media.

C is for Craig, as in Craig Ferguson - Because he makes me laugh. Because it seems like he's just making it up as he goes along, and still, he makes me laugh. Because it doesn't always work and these occasional failures are so utterly and uncomfortably "real." And, because he uses the word "boobies," often.

D is for denouement - That about wraps it up! (Oh, I'm not done? Really? I have the rest of the alphabet to go? Seriously? I'm going to need coffee, or wine…or a dram of whisky.)

E is for Espresso - I try to have an espresso, in a ceramic demitasse, at least once a day. Espresso in Styrofoam or paper cups is just wrong. I'm going for an espresso now. You should join me. It's snowing so you might want to grab your coat. I'll be across the street in that little Italian café, at the bar. I'm wearing a blue shirt and a black suit coat with a grey-black-white pocket square. Hurry; you're buying.

F is for fishing - Had a long conversation about ice fishing with my brother-in-law. (Admittedly, not everyone is going to know that in Canada, the lakes freeze over in the winter and people go out on the ice, drill holes and fish. They will often drive their cars and trucks out onto the ice. Sometimes, when the ice gets too thin, and people drink too much, cars and trucks will sink into the lake. Funny, actually, as long as it's not your car. Anyway, some Canadians go ice fishing. There.) So, my brother-in law talked. I listened. And I was fascinated. Ice fishing, for him, is a meditation. There is ritual and reverence involved. There is honour and integrity and a profound living in the present moment. I remain astounded. Perhaps Buddha nature is in all of us. Perhaps we are all Buddhas.

G is for "go" - Going to Mexico tomorrow. Mayan Riviera. Really. I am. I'll be back in a week. Meet me down on the beach. I'll be there at noon holding a copy of Durrell's Alexandria Quartet and wearing a straw, stingy-brimmed hat that my wife hates. I'll buy you a drink. Well, all the drinks are free so maybe you can buy?

H is for Hoyo de Monterrey (Short Corona) - The thing I love about smoking a cigar every now and then is that you basically have to tell the world to go to hell while you do it. It's almost impossible to do something other than smoke the cigar. You have to stop. This nice little Cuban cigar (5 inch, 42 gauge) is a recent find. It's a subtle, gentle smoke - complex flavours - but not pushy. This cigar is like the "pinot noir" of the Cuban cigars, for me. I had been gravitating to this cigar's flashier cousin, the Romeo Y Julieta Escudos but the Hoyo de Monterrey has won me over.

I is for Irshad, as in Irshad Manji - Ms. Manji wrote "The Trouble With Islam Today: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith". This book is in my top three reads from last year. A devastatingly articulate and well argued glimpse of modern-day Islam - and more. Courageous. Unnerving. Insightful.

J is for Jean Pierre Lépine fountain pens - Apparently, Jean Pierre Lépine is a direct descendant of several generations of manufacturers from the French High-Jura. Taking a craftsman's pride in his work, he seeks to combine tradition with innovation. J.P. Lépine writing instruments are produced in small production batches, by craftsmen in Jean Pierre's workshop. I have an Indigo Classic Fountain Pen (champagne) and I want more. It's the best pen I own.

K is for kindness - "My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness." - Dalai Lama

L is for Lama, as in Dalai Lama - Yo! Lama! I'm a fan!!

M is for Mackenzie - Mac for short. My nine-year-old daughter. We have, on occasion, joked with her about her abbreviated name - "We named you after a computer," we will say. "Really?" she'll ask. And then a picture of her as a young woman sitting in a therapist's office talking about her name flashes in front of my eyes…and I wonder who's paying for this therapy and I know it's going to be me.

N is for Namaste - A lovely greeting that has honour, and integrity, and grace. This is my favourite definition: "I honour the place in you in which the entire Universe dwells, I honour the place in you which is of love, of integrity, of wisdom and of peace. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are one."

O is for Obama, as in President - Dear Pres; What the hell happened? We had such hope and you've turned into this feckless, nearly silent, submissive who will not stick up for yourself or the dream you sold to America - and to the rest of the world. Oh hell, I'm not American, but damnit, you even inspired me. It's not enough to just get elected - that's just the talk - now you've got to do the walk. Lead for Christ's sake. Be a leader.

P is for "Pacing the Cage" (a song by Bruce Cockburn) - Four lines from this beautiful song form the epigraph for Waiting for Columbus. These lines so perfectly set the tone for my book. I listened to this song 1,482 times while working on the book. I listened to the hymn "Silent Night" 764 times. Barber's Adagio: 902 times. My book had 57 drafts. I read it out loud three times. It was 136,760 words long when I handed it to my agent. It's around 95,000 words right now.

Q is for quitting - Please go out and buy ten copies of my new book, Waiting for Columbus (Picador Books), so that I can quit my day job and write more books. That would be lovely.

R is for requiem - I like listening to requiems. I don't know why. Mozart's. Verdi's. Fauré's. Fauré's requiem is my favourite right now.

S is for Skinny Vanilla Latte - Venti - My wife's choice of coffee beverage: Skinny Vanilla Latte - Venti (no foam). My daughter's: Skinny Vanilla Latte - Grande Decaf. Mine: Grande Bold - with a shot of espresso.

T is for Treatment, as in "In Treatment" - TV is, for the most part, a wasteland. A flickering hell to which I voluntarily surrender more often than I'm willing to admit. However, every now and then, a show comes along that causes me to sit up, focus, lose my breath - a show that inspires - a TV show that makes me want to be a better writer. "In Treatment" is such a show. Fearless. Edgy. Moving.

U is for "Under the Volcano," by Malcolm Lowry - Loved the book, and the movie. A lot of booze, and The Day of the Dead in 1938 Mexico. No se puede vivir sin amar

V is for vireos (Red-eyed) - The Red-eyed Vireo is one of my favourite song birds. They have a distinctive red eye that sets them apart from some similar species of Vireos. This bird will sing all day long. They just keep going and going and going. Sounds like a question and answer. Short, choppy phrasing. Two birds sound like half a dozen. Love having vireos in my yard.

W is for whisky - My favourite right now is a single malt scotch called Lagavulin (16 Year Old) - massive, peat-smoke typical of an Islay. Yet, not overwhelming.

X is for kisses - Everybody knows this!!! I love it when people I don't expect, add "XXXOOO" in a salutation - especially 50-year-old women who have written to tell me how much they loved my book. Out of the blue, there are these kisses and hugs - added to an e-mail or a letter. It throws me for a loop every time.

Y is for Yoga - Dear Yoga; I've been away from you for far too long. I miss you. I miss the stretching and the gentle inward turn. I miss your temperate nature and the way I felt when we were together. I miss the way you would move my energies around - how I would discover little hidden alcoves of emotion after a session - or during. Can we rekindle our affair? I promise to be faithful - to never stand you up - to be there for you, always. I realize now, that I loved you and still do. I am a better person with you in my life. Can you forgive me for leaving? Namaste. Thomas.

Z is for zinc - Zinc. Blue gray. The sky is the zinc coloured right now. Snow is in the air but you could not exactly say it is snowing. The snow is simply there - a fine sift of white, in the way when you look at a building, or a tree, but there is no accumulation on the ground. Perhaps you only wish it was snowing. Maybe you are having a complete mental breakdown. You are only sure of the temperature and the colour of the sky - the sky is zinc and today it is cold.

Watch a video Thomas made for Waiting for Columbus.