Monday, October 20, 2003

EPSILON SEMI-GENIUS

It was fun being a genius.

At the North York Mirror, where my novel was reviewed, and later at the college, people would say,"There goes Ivan the genius.
Anybody at the staff lounge could glance at me and Newman Wallis, dean of arts, and immediately deduce who the important person was.

My wife couldn't stand it all.

"Okay genius, here's a mop. The kitchen floor has a superhighway on it, full of cigarette ash from where you do your nightly pace after class, drinking cheap beer and all alone on top of that."

"But I am an artist, Martha."

"Artist isn't too far off from another word that starts with an a."

Sigh. Back to the "artists" we really are.

It all came from a slim novel that gained a large cult following. It dealt with survival and had a catchy title which somehow, years later, interfaced with the computer world: THE BLACK ICON.

The success was almost immediate. CBC interviews, offers from the Sunday Sun, an editorial stint with the late Martin Lynch, poet of typography and legend at The Globe and Mail, my own newspaper column in TOPIC (Bradford ON), a call from the college and I was on my way.

But then genius is something a family develops over many generations. I seemed to have had few antecedents.

Dropped in a potato field in Ukraine many moons back, I knew my first cousin was a potato and sensed for sure that my family crest could have contained two crossed hoes rampant on a potato field. What I was receiving was the fruit of Mr. Trudeau's idea of muliticulturalism, a kind of affirmative action fostered by a generous society. I knew I wouldn't last. And I didn't.

I picked up a whiskey habit and a pin-sized hooker who told me things I liked to hear.

"We have IQ's of 140," said Lana the Hooker, whose day job was systems analyst."We can create things, make them sing and dance. People hate us."

The future, as always, was the dead past and all its wise men. I was caught up in biblical wisdom. Suffice to say there was a snake in the garden with a punk haircut and if the garden was the marriage bed that's all you need to know.

It took a long time to fall, to meet kindly Wanda the Welfare Lady who said it takes a lot of detail to make up a life story, life being long and one slim book doesn't do it all. "There's more," she said.

She knew of what she spoke. The life story soon included me in somebody else's novel, a Damon-Runyon world of pimps, priests and police. How the hell did I get into THAT novel?

Someone was now writing me.

Never mind Margaret Atwood (with whom I sometimes communicate). I was now involved the THE HOOKER'S TALE and I wanted out.

I am finally clean and straight.

But like another seeker in the vintage movie Deliverance, I wake up in my home in the middle of a subdivision and wonder what being a seeker (Genius?) was all about.

I had all the perks of being a genius long before the genius came. Because of good families on both sides and the healthy society we had in the Seventies, the money and the fame came, it seems, before I even put serious pen to paper. I had been the new Superhero: AFFIRMATIVE ACTION MAN...MULTICULTURAL MAN.

It takes a family, and I had tampered with commandments, become a spoiled brat, satisfying all appetites, while the family waited for accomplishments.

They finally came, thirty years later, but in dribbles and in bits.

In today's world, you can almost put Humpty-Dumpty together again, but it will still be a patchwork.

Po' egghead.