I’ve been subscribed to Maisonneuve magazine from almost the beginning. It was when I got my job at Chapters, in Devonshire Mall. I was thrilled to be close to so many books, thinking that the information would seep into my consciousness, like a landfill into a river. I’m sure it’s a common hope among eager Chapters beavers.

Not long into the job, I sighted a handsome magazine cover in the section appointed for those wonderful creations, magazines, and I scooped it up for a quick peruse. At the time, publishing my own magazine with my wife-to-be, it was unlike anything I’d ever seen. I found them online and quickly wrote them a letter telling them how taken I was with the glossy treasure.

My friend Dan, somehow, has been unable, in years, to get his subscription to come to his place of residence. As a side note, I find this very bizarre, as this magazine is something I hold on a pedestal, and cannot for the life of me understand how such an oversight can be directed toward him…as I hold him in higher esteem than the magazine, I wish he could get this thing I covet.

Flash forward a few years. The magazine is doing swimmingly, in magazine circles. But they have trimmed their monthly output to a much smaller publishing schedule; Quarterly. It looks great, and it has a nice mix of national, international, fun, poetic, literary, Montreal-centric, and random stories. It’s not a stranger anymore. People know it. They have it. They get it. Not Dan though.

When I first opened Phog with Frank, I somehow convinced someone in the magazine to send me something insane, like, 100 magazines to give away. GIVE AWAY! They knew I would give them away with words of wonder, and yes, they eventually made it into the fray. People began subscribing for a special price, as was the deal for picking one up in this unusual locale, the local watering hole/music venue.

This event, the 100 mags, was unique and almost magic to me. The connection to a magazine that was so wicked, so refined, so pro (or to become pro) choosing to mix with the scrub in Windsor. I was flattered, but also sensed something extra special; Something serendipitous.

Shortly after working at Chapters, I think, Jhoan bought me a gift I will never forget. It was a boxed set of the earliest magazines they had ever published. It was perfect paper pleasantry. Dead trees never looked so good. The box they were in, wooden, the first good use of a dead tree, was branded with a hot die-cast device, placing a black moniker of the mag on the centre-top of the box. Inside, was the second best use of a dead tree..the magazines I had never read. I only had newer issues, about three months after the issue I saw on the shelf at Chapters. One of the things Jhoan might have known, but that I had forgotten, was that the first praise-letter I sent them was used in the “Letters to the Editor” section. I had never seen it. I’d been pre-occupied during my shifts at Chapters. I was in the midst of opening and running a bar while still selling books to women who really wanted to buy hand lotion. I had forgotten to look for my letter in print. Well, now I had a crisp, perfect copy in my hot little hands, in a hot stamped box, on my birthday in the hottest of months; August.

Why this story? Why now?

Watching Conan O’Brien tonight…he had a comedian on the show who told some funny stories about his friends. He spoke about having a friend who insists on answering everything with a lyric from a song. Believe it or not, I have a good number of customers who do this to me. They’re music nuts! They are allowed to do this without me getting tired of it. It simply made the joke funnier to me because of the “it’s so true” factor.

The example he used was telling his friend he wanted something and his friend responding with, “You can’t always get what you want, man…Rolling Stones…”

He took a chance to get him back by later answering his question about the taste of food (I think) by saying, “Mmm-Bop…Hanson.”


Fast forward to a few hours later, almost 4am. I am reading like a fiend again lately. Finished The New York Times from Sunday, and plowed through a book of short stories by one of my heroes, Dave Eggers, and was now finally going to get a look at something that came in the mail almost 3 weeks ago…the Summer issue of Maisonneuve. I killed most of it, skipping the fiction section as I always do, in Harpers, Maisonneuve, and others. But I made an exception for some reason at the end of the mag, after having read about The Grey Nuns of Montreal. They have published a SHORT story, the winning story of the Quebec Writing Competition.

It’s by Joel Yanofsky. I don’t know him. Never heard his name. I skipped the title.

It’s about getting frustrated while driving, as a parent, at your son who is having a terrible tantrum in the back seat of your car. The son has autism. He discusses the problem of dealing with this son, and how angelic his wife is when dealing with his ordeal. He talks about being self-involved, wanting to be consoled himself for his son’s “handicap”. The son is losing his mind because he WANTS chocolate ice cream BEFORE dinner. Mom starts the story by saying, “What’s our motto? Use your words: ‘You can’t always get what you want,’ and I am frozen. I look at the title and it laughs at me. “What You Need”. I remember the stupid joke from Conan.

I am beside myself, as this is a revisited theme. They use a CD (Forty Licks by The Rolling Stones) to calm the boy. They use the song to communicate to him. The boy, however, in the end, wants Satisfaction to be played on the stereo in the car. The driver begins thinking about HIS wants versus his needs.

It is compelling, and weird, and serendipitous again. Maisonneuve strikes again! Imagine that I have been waiting three weeks to read this, so that this comedian can say his joke, a conduit to a fireworks display of “don’t discount this message!” which was to come only hours later.

You see, I have been wanting to be challenged with my writing. I want to make some money and learn the craft with some hard-earned, hard-nosed writing, and I have been unable to tack anything concretely down. No writing job, no one offering me, out of thin air, a shot at writing for a PAYING GIG with a magazine or paper or other. Maybe the magazine editors are secretly reading MY BLOG when they’re at home. Maybe they actually want my angle, my voice in their publications…I’m delusional.

What was I thinking, wanting that? That’s not a “want” worth wanting. That’s a need worth chasing down, through the streets, around corners, through alleys, over parking lots, until I catch it, hundreds of meters later after hitting it with a stone, stunning it, and clobber it over the head. It’s mine now. I went and got it. I didn’t sit around waiting for it to be given to me on a palanquin. And this realization is something I am thankful for…

Thankful for my wife re-subscribing to this magazine without ever asking me. Thankful for the message to be sent. Thankful for my ability to see it.

*I have to add, that this writing experience has been one unlike any other, as I promptly put my iPod on after “getting the message” and began playing all of my Rolling Stones music…and by getting through 8 songs in this writing process, I most certainly DID get to You Can’t Always Get What You Want. Funny enough, I just scrolled through my list to find Satisfaction, and it took the most amount of effort, as it was the last song in the playlist. Ha! The messages continue!…*


5 responses to “Want

  1. “…selling books to women who really wanted to buy hand lotion…”


  2. Hi Tom, I work for Maisonneuve and was very happy to read about your fondness for the magazine. I was vexed, however, by your friend Dan’s experience with Maisy (never receiving a copy!). I would very much like to contact Dan to try and right an old wrong! If you could help me out with that, I would appreciate it.

  3. “Like a landfill into a river”.

    Another ‘funny ‘cuz it’s true’…

  4. Wow.

    That was an amazing post Tom. Great writing. Truly.

  5. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” was used to darkly beautiful effect in the 90s quebec film Leolo…


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