## My favorite math fact?

That’s easy. Let’s say you wanted to know how big a tire to get for your bike. You know that the diameter of your wheel is 28inches, but you don’t know it’s circumference.

Well, then, you can just go out on the street or to a mall or something. Anywhere where there’s a bunch of strangers.And ask each person to pick two random positive integers.For each pair of integers, you determine whether they are relatively prime ( if any integer larger than 1 divides them both then they aren’t relatively prime) Anyway, you keep a track of the total number of pairs you have collected, and how many of them were relatively prime. As soon as you are tired of this you go back home. Then you take the total number of pairs, multiply it by six. Divide that by the total number that were relatively prime. Then take the square root. Now, you take the result of that and multiply it by 28 inches (the diameter of the wheel). And the result will be the circumference.

This is true.

Of course, this involves randomness, statistics, so accuracy isn’t absolute. But if you even just collected a couple of hundred pairs your result would probably be as accurate as if you used a tape measure.

I love this fact.

## Sometimes I refer to myself in the third person,

call myself Johnny Steam, I hope you don’t mind.

Johnny Steam is a little more flamboyant than me.

Before a dental x-ray Johnny likes to draw a happy face with lead paint on the inside of his cheek. No price is too high for laughter.

Johnny Steam Toys with his Emotions

The first letter arrived scented with sweet peas, Russian thistle and ivory soap. The envelope parchment. A stamp featuring an old cathedral.

He had written it with his lefthand. It was a faintly familiar childish handwriting.It was from Evergreen, a woman of his imagination.

Like wearing clean underwear in case of an accident, he had picked an entirely fictitious name. He knew some of his female friends worried that he might be obsessed over them.

This first letter was set inSpain, Valencia. She described her days wandering the countryside. Its a great place to hike, no bugs, almost a deafening heat, but an oasis of orange trees every couple of miles. And you can steal all the oranges you want. None of the farmers have the energy to bother chasing you. After a couple of days of a solely orange diet (food and drink)the diarrhea is pretty intense ,but as long as you’re by yourself its O.K. And it only lasts a couple of days.

The second letter was stained with red wine. She had finally run into a young rancher willing to chase her for his oranges. They were living together in a white plaster building, clay tile roof, no glass in the windows. The rancher’s tame bull would stand at the window and look in as they played at sex on his duck feather mattress.

The third letter Johnny wrote late at night, drunk from an evening spent in a strip bar.She was bored of the rancher.And the rancher was only in love with the sex. She talked of when she had first heard ofJohnny, word of mouth from an ex-roommate. And why she had started to write to him, but that part was hard to understand, almost religious. She seemed to bethinking it was one of those spiritual connection things that are sometimes used to try and mask simple lust.

The fourth letter, she was back on the road again, and back to the cities. And out ofSpain. She had caught a ride with a Pepsi machine repairman on his way to a crisis in northern Greece. 800 miles in19 hours with \$4000 of speeding tickets and 5.4 grams of cocaine. Two days after they had arrived she was still pacing the sea wall in Thesaloniki, her nose still bleeding. She was staying at the youth hostel, making room and board by low-tech forgery.Her goal in life was to acquire a taste for cheap Greek pine flavored wine.

Her fifth letter, Johnny had to question its truthfulness. She claimed to have walked all the way to Athens. Her description of the city was very superficial, as if she’d only ever seen brochures, or maybe a low-altitude fly-over. She said he could send her a reply care of the American Express there. It was the first time she’d mentioned a two-way communication. Johnny didn’t bother sending a reply.

Her sixth arrived postmarkedIstanbul. Johnny threw it away unopened.The seventh came fromPrague. She was high on intellectualism. Minds were boiling over in the vacuum of freedom. Art was life.Anarchy was her religion. The letter went on for 15 pages.And the paper, exquisite, hand made, scraps of bus transfers barely visible. She was living on baguettes, chocolate and weak tea.

The eight and ninth letters came from Prague as well. She was living the examined life.She appeared much more calm and cool, but that was just because her turmoil had become embedded deeper inside. She was happier than she’d ever been.But the air in Prague was yellow and her lungs had begun to ache.

The tenth letter was short. It just said when her plane would arrive. Johnny had even phoned a travel agent for information so he could use real flight times.

He went out to the airport when the day came, even though he knew she wouldn’t be on the plane. He just felt like it.

## I was just

hanging around on the street near here, Yonge and Dundas, a few years back, early evening, and Malcolm McLaren came by in one of those rickshaw things. He and the driver were sprawled up on the bench, a pack of six uniformed schoolgirls were pulling the rickshaw. I just dropped my few bags of groceries and dashed over, ran along side, said “Mr. McLaren, would you mind if I asked you a question?” “Well, (pause),sure.” “What’s the best way to make a good first impression?”And he said “Good question.”, slouched even farther back and offered me a split of champagne from a cooler beside him. I declined, already feeling a little nauseous from the continued running. He thought for ten or fifteen seconds before replying “Well, first, a general piece of advice, never worry about fidelity.And second, for a good first impression, my best advice is always have your entrance accompanied by the sound of breaking glass”.

But, I’ve never been that much of a showman. I wish I was sometimes. Like

Like you know. Do you remember in high school learning how the intestines are miles and miles long. Long enough to stretch from here to Venus. But then someone in the class figured out that that would mean that the corn (or whatever noticeable thing gets through in a day or two) would have to travel at 3,000 miles an hour or something.So you figured out they weren’t that long, but still pretty long. So I like to think that if I ever was dying anyway, then maybe I’d swallow a ball bearing or something and let them x-ray me continuously for days and days as it passed through me. I could watch it in real time as it careened around inside my belly.

But even I have realized that probably, in the end, I won’t ever get around to doing that.

## So, okay, I’m sure you have a million questions

Let me try and answer them, all at once.

Through the exploration of a single theme.

The unsung heroism of Pepsi machine repair people.

They make a few thousands or dollars a week, cash. You’ve got to be doing something heroic to be making that sort of money these days.

So, anyway, that’s the topic.

## Sitting at the corner of Dundas

and Yonge on a slab of concrete surrounding a tortured tree. The concrete permanently stained by the fluids leaking from the wounds in the souls of the people who stream by. I don’t know very much but I do know that this isn’t what I moved to Toronto for. But there I am less than twelve hours after hitting this town. And this is essentially my neighborhood. And for this I have left behind a woman who wants a pair of boots that reach her thighs.

## I like to enter a cocktail party

through a side door near the back of the room, at breakneck speed, as if I had a four foot length of 2×4 held in both hands. And listen to the sound in my brain as my imaginary 2×4 goes thwack, thwack, thwack across the foreheads of any party goers leaning against the wall. And I let this imaginary violence slow me down, to a respectable striding speed. And then I scan the crowd, checking for anybody I know.I give myself five seconds. And then calculate my limit.

I award myself an extra drink per hour for every four acquaintances I spot in those five seconds (close friends count as three acquaintances).My allowance is 3 plus the acquaintance bonus. (e.g. If I see 7 acquaintances in my five second scan then my limit is 3+ (7/4) = 5 drinks per hour). So then, off to the bar to drink half my hour’s allowance rightaway.

Now, when I’ve described all this before there has been some confusion. To make things clear. I’m not comfortable at cocktail parties. I’m not about to get drunk at these things. I always drink some non-alcoholic cold beverage, whatever they have with the highest caffeine content. And if I’m not thirsty, or am already abuzz with caffeine from some chocolate binge or something, I just get really small glasses.

## I think that the biggest

change that the CD player has wrought on the world is that it has made it easy to repeat a single track over and over again. For hours.

It took people a few years to begin to admit that they did this. I guess it seemed too much like rushing to the department store to buy a scarf just like the ones the BayCity Rollers used to wear.

But we’ve finally figured out that everyone does it. So the shame is gone.

If I ever put out a CD I’m gonna want at least 4 tracks that work well when repeated endlessly.

This single track repeat feature has replaced our need for religion. Or, it is the new religion, the worship of the moment, the worship of progress.

In the modern world, if you find something you love, you might as well OD on it, make yourself sick of it, because there’ll be something better and cooler the next day.

120 Billion hamburgers world-wide so far. At an average of 315 kg dressed weight per cattle that is equivalent to 46 million cattle. At an average length of 2 metres per cow these cows could be placed in a line 92 thousand kilometres long. This is 23.9 % of the average distance from the earth to the moon. This could lead some more naive people to believe that the entireMcDonald’s phenomenon may be nothing more than a psychotic attempt to actualize the children’s nursery rhyme about the cow jumping over the moon.

## So I rigged up a holster and

opened a temporary tattoo business in the park. And it was there I met Talbot Wesson, heir to the entire Smith & Wesson arms factory, who really liked my holster.

He had flyers mailed out to all registered S&W handgun owners offering them a free upgrade to the latest model. 65% sent in their old guns for the upgrade. Talbot had each of them mailed a Dymo label making gun (in one of my holsters). A class action suit was filed, but it was dropped when the customers were unable to find anything in the product literature that had talked about any purpose for S&W guns other than ‘improved home security’. Talbot told that years ago S&W had actually stolen the texts for their brochures from the Dymo stuff about labelling one’s valuables. So, the label making gun was deemed a suitable replacement.

Talbot had all these returned guns made permanently inoperable and dumped on the streets of Moscow. The rumour of the existence of these dud guns spread through the city in hours. The number of armed robberies dropped quickly, although there were more deaths in the few robberies that still occurred. It wasn’t a good bet to assume the gun was a dud, to call your assailant’s bluff, but people always over bet the long shots.

Like when we were down inTexas we went to a few horse races. To watch people over bet the long shots. And to do it ourselves.

I’ve never claimed I wasn’t an idiot.

## An excerpt from one of my unsuccessful love letters:

You’re not awful,

You’re just wrong