Pockets of angels.
Pockets of Boticelli, his quirky, almost cartoon-like rendering of all the stations of Hell.
"In the middle of the journey of our lives.."
Intermezzo del camin du nuestra vita...
Boticelli, perfectly capable of rendering angelic beauty as in that Venus-on-the-halfshell so reminiscent of Toronto City Hall, and then doing a complete 180- degree turn and illustrating Dante's hell for us. And what a proper hell it was, out of all the materials of the 14th century and a little beyond, into our present time. Was Urjo Revell thinking of Boticelli when he designed our city hall? Hard to say. From the beginning, in l964, they said that Toronto's new shell-like structure was ugly, even down to the turd-in-the plaza of Henry Moore. But look at that plaza now. Finnish furniture elevated to high art. Ikea with a whole lot of Boticelli thrown in. It is beautiful.
Ah, we ourselves are starlight, are golden. And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden.
I once took a page out of Joni Mitchell's book and produced a newspaper column whose standing logo was "Both Sides Now."
Oh the arrogance of it, thinking, at 34, that I had seen it all, had figured it out, that I'd been through hell and would be able to write the guidebook. Saw myself as a savant and started a column in the local paper.
At least, my young fool's notes were carrying the house. I had succeeded in cobbling together other people's material and making a living at it.
Other people's material.
Well, there was Woodstock. "Come with me, my friend, I'll show you another country", yes, Jefferson Airplane with Gracie Slick fronting, and Janis Joplin:
"Sittin' by the window
Lookin' out at the rain...
Seems to me like a ball and chain."
And then the aw aw aw aw Please! She seemed to be having an orgasm out there, right on the stage. Just a little piece of your heart now, baby.
It's a strange, strange world we live in, Master Jack. All this time, I've been trying to write a novel. Yes. Weren't you?
Master Jack trying to be nimble at the typewriter, writing the great Canadian novel, f*cking it up, wife saying you picked a hard thing to be, writing the only thing you know and even at this you are failing. Jefferson airplane on CHUM FM. Artistic failure. You mean I am not in their lague? I am not an artist?
The saved-up joint lit up, hoping to get that sense of omnipotence and creativity back and it is not a good stone. Not even with the chelm. Three years go by. Same problem. "You are fucking up, baby. Looks like you'll have to go to work for a while."
I get work as a rock critic. I am still wearing the suit and tie they told me to wear at our "I think-I-can" technical university. Old school tie, yes, the beanie, almost.
Frosh all my days. Trying to be hip, trying to be cool. In blazer and slacks. Electric Circus, Brower and Walker rock shows at Varsity Stadium, an old haunt. Philosopher's walk, remembering some of the hazing at Trinity College. Poor kid with the beanie still on, carrot in his mouth, "Eat that, you queer." Preparation for life, yeah.
Well, they did prepare me for life. Trinity was sort of a finishing school for me, my mainline trade being journalist. Fellating the stars.
I finally got some paisley and beads and went the whole rock columnist routine. Here and there I would affect Riddler outfits, Batman, Superman, the five-inch high-heeled boots. Granny's. All our imitations of Studio 54. I had fantasies of meeting Margaret Trudeau.
And suddenly the bubble burst. The Toronto Telegram sank, and so did I.
Like many another screw-up, I retreated to my cottage to write that great Canadian novel. I huffed and I strained. It laid an egg.
Back to the journalism, back to the column I had titled "Both Sides Now", back on "boogie street", for I was making money again, and the next thing you know, I'm at the Toronto Sun with my scrawls and life is good. Except that I had screwed up the novel.
What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world...I seemed to have
lost my soul, first to rock'n'roll and now to something like Neil Young's father--journalism. I was not an artist, just a moon reflecting all the stars, here and there mooning them out of sheer envy.
The standard artistic trick. Drive your family away. Find a garret. Become the novelist you were meant to be.
You reach for heaven, try for Beatrice among the stars and you end up in hell. The separation anxiety kills the creativity, your biopsychic intensities overcoming your proof page, the bottles piled up, the alcoholism, the shame of rehab.
And the question is asked, did he, did he deliver the goods?
Yes he did. But it was like Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. The project was finally completed, but it had been moth-eaten, and finally chewed upon by sharks.
And there was all this snapped continuity, what they had been talking about in the Sixties and Seventies.
I had finally gotten the snap. Where the hell is the rest of me?
"Major Tom to ground control..."