Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Difficult Kind

Recently, through a marijuana haze, I learned that a past girlfriend had gone insane.

Tell it to me slow
Tell me with your eyes
If anyone should know
How to let it slide
I swear I can see you
coming up the drive
And there's noting like regret
To remind you you're alive

Sheryl Crow on the skippy old CD, making the news even more surreal. Time warps.

Oh ballbreaking moon and ridiculing stars
The older I get, the closer you are

I had been thinking of Felina these past four years. Fondly. Very fondly. She had been a transitional woman for me, a kind of Isis who surely stopped me from going on the road to alcohol and hating women; all the divorce and turmoil I had been going through. The Big Split with the former wife had been traumatic enough, but then there was the second and third time. Something was clearly wrong with me--- that or I was playing games with my partners and maybe another dynamic was afoot. Surely, I was a rat with women, but the games, as my black friend observed, seem to come "right back on your ass." I had suffered damnably while away from Feline. Missed her.

Almost became obsessed with her.

If you could only see
What love has made of me
Then I'd no longer be in your mind
The difficult kind

Is Mad Meg what I had made of my gypsy queen? The one who loved me so unconditionally? Who had fed me, given me money to go and look for work. Time warp with the MaryJane. Fifties song.

I love Corinna
Where you been so long?
I ain't had no money
Since you've been gone.

The very first meeting was in my basement studio that I'd turned into an unofficial coffee house, me the old neo-Hippie, playing guitars and running printing presses, putting out the Main Street WhizBang, Newmarket's first (and last) underground newspaper, old rebel with a cause, hoping to turn the downtown into a genuine Haight-Ashbury without the negative connotations, twenty years after the hippies had gone.

I almost succeeded. Hot and cold running chicks, poetesses, chess broads, Jerry Rubin-style politics--we were going to take on the mafia that ran the town--and something like free love. We were certainly staledated old hippies.

"You should be a pimp," hissed a visiting politician. "The hours you keep, the women you seem to jump on and off from."

He returned a few weeks later to burn my coffee house down. Municipal politics is so damn dangerous. Especially for neo-hippies. Certainly an American approach. Burn down the crackhouse... Yet the only crack in my house was, uh.

All of this Merry Prankster activity just a block from my old matrimonial home, the old Victorian high-peaked, shuttered and porched edifice with the maples all around.

Close to the scene of the crime, the original sin. No wonder the devil was bringing down fire. What was the original dear one thinking?

I swear I can see you
coming up the drive
And there's nothing like regret
To remind you you're alive

The auras of too many lovers. I had probably gone quite mad myself.

Portrait of the artist as a young-old pimp. Who knew? I certainly had lots of women around by the time Felina appeared on my doorstep. Gypsy queen, straight out of Bob Dylan.

The two-wheel gypsy queen had just been dumped by her ordnance-carrying boyfriend. She needed a man, she finally confided.

"You're the kind of man I need now."

"Yeah?" I looked up from my printing press "Well, let’s just take off our clothes and fuck."

She began, in the half-light of the basement window, to undress.


Ah, those were the days when you could bring almost any woman down. Not altogether sure of your power. Guitar man. Famous poet.

"Hey Felina, I was only kidding. This isn't Opening Night. I know you just want to learn to write. That's what the sign says over my door.”

Careful when you turn a woman down.

I knew I was risking fury and hell.

It was one of the many times I would frustrate her, madden her. Harry the Rat with Women. Great Expectations in reverse. It was my mother who was somehow the witch in my own book..
My mother was insane. She used to beat us with a stick. Not just an ordinary stick. A really good stick, like a broomhandle.

Said a guitar sideman: "Now you beat all your women with your big stick."

Now local politicians and gansters were beating me with their own sticks. I had jibed them. And like all Mafiosi and bikers, they responded fast. They burned my coffee house down.

Shortly after the fire, I moved into Felina's apartment. Out in the sticks. Farmhouse. She had somehow gotten her hands on a car. Saved us the long walks from town.

We would go on rides to the wilderness just north of us. She bought me a friendship ring of black onyx.

I bought her a thumb ring.

In her messy apartment, I would play the role of the 14th-century lute player, pantaloons and all, supplicating evocatively to cathedral windows. Malagena sale rosa. Felina would dance.

The Tom Jones movie love scenes now crowding my mind, the chasing each other up hillsides, leaves in our hair like pagans. Felina jumping at me from a perch on a rock.

Why did Felina go insane?

The problem came earlier, much earlier.

There had been a husband, the biker. The drugs. The mammoth parties. The elephantine drunks.

He had shrunk her mind and expanded her mouth. Put her on drugs.

With me, I know she tried to write, but I noticed that when reading, her index finger would follow quotations. Very carefully. Poor dear. An Ingenue.

We stayed together for four years. We were great lovers. But the differences, the differences.
I would call her elfin, and she would reply "I ain't no elephant."

Glib man. Goofy woman.

Finally, after a mad night of making love, I found with the alcohol and drugs that I was incapable of climax, a fact that distressed us both, trying as we were to get both ourselves off. She to her other room and me to the lounge.

Other voices, other rooms?

Which of us was gay?

None of the above?

Well why this sudden enmity.

The problem was never resolved, we grew around it like a tree around a wire fence, but things were soon not the same with us.

She did not pick me up at my temp job one day. And not the following day either.
I tried calling her. No answer.

I showed up at her door. She let me in, offered me a drink, but she was brittle. Somehow the love was suddenly gone.

After a few hours of futile attempts at making things right again (I had even bought flowers), I knew that this was the final indissoluble antinomy. This was it.

Only once did I see her again, but it was in my new apartment where she came to the door and asked for a sandwich. I gave her a sandwich and a beer, she thanked me and she was gone.

And now another four years later, I learn she had gone insane. Was it me?
Beating her with my stick?

If you could only see
What love has made of me
Then I'd no longer be in your mind
The difficult kind.

Sing it, Sheryl. Sing it sweet, bluesy and low.

Harry the rat. Crazymaker.


Erik Ivan James said...

Yes, we carry always our baggage. Don't we?
Along the way we try to unpack the baggage of others; to place it among our own.
We can't. There is no room.
Those good lovers we drove away.
Most just away. A few, worse.
We put our underwear in the drawer for awhile. But only for awhile.
The doors of our past keep swinging open.
We never throw the bolt secure.

ivan said...

You are so rigght-on, in style and in content. And life experience.
Leonard Cohen says the way to healing is through a song.
I tried it with Sheryl's "The Difficult Kind", only to be haunted by the phrase "The older I get, the closer you are."
And then I learn Sheryl has just broken up with Lance Armstrong.
More moody broken-heart music for Sheryl? She has just teamed up with Sting to produce a new hit, something about going back to original relationships.
Ah, the days when we thought love songs were just that--love songs.
Uh-uh. It's about real love and loss.
But I think Leonard Cohen has something there when he says there is a kind of redemption in an evocative song.
I tried transposing a kind of hurting song into a blog, with an assist from Sheryl Crow. Some assuagement, but as you say, "We
never throw the bolt secure."
Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

Erik Ivan James said...

"Unchained Melody", the Righteous Brothers arrangement.
One of the best love songs of all time.
And nobody sung it better.
Never will.
It brought me love's opportunites; dancing in the sand, when I was young.
Many opportunites.
When I hear it now;
I remember.
I cry.
When I hear it now;
I dream.
I try.
The call of memories.
The search for the new.
Maybe Mr. Cohen is correct.

ivan said...

The Righteous Brothers.
My black friends agreed in those days that these singers were indeed righteous. Blue-eyed soul.

Myself being "Major Tom to Ground Control" in between relationships, I used to carry a Walkman around
with Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet
tape in it.
There were things that Bon Jovi's partner Ritchie Sambora could do in the key of D that would sound like Segovia doing rock and roll.
Arpeggios on the brink of heavy metal, without actuallly going into heavy metal. The simple, yet increasingly complex exploration of emotion. Straighten you right out.

"Some times I sleep
Some times I think for days
And people that you meet
They just go their separate ways

"Sometimes I count the days
by the bottle that you drink
Sometimes I sit alone
And all you do is think.

"I'm a cowboy..."

Happily, I had my own band at the time and whatever dischord I felt could be played right out there on the stage.
And then it got to be a job.
Oh well.

Anonymous said...

No offense intended Ivan, in your choice of songstress to accompany your memories, but I like my gal singers to have a bit of range and sing in tune. Maybe like the Pointer Sisters singing about wanting a man with a slow hand. Because that was playing over and over a long time ago when I encountered Barbara.

Sort of like "9 1/2 Weeks", except it didn't take more than three. It all happened round about the time of the full moon, and the Perseid meteors had come and gone. Summer was coming to an end. Chuck and Di had tied the knot, and I had co-hosted a cable TV show with a guy that thought he was a psychic. Wonder why he never told me what was to happen?

Barbara lived in the same apartment building, parked in underground parking near where I parked, and we rode up in the elevator together quite often. Once she was carrying a book about Dali, and told me that she liked Dali a lot. Little snippets of information were revealed from time to time.

Why not? I thought one day. I procured a post card with Dali's melting clock on one side and on the other, put down my name and phone number. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

The phone rang the next day. A date was arranged to see the first Indiana Jones flick, personally recommended by Paul Soles. Like Sidney Greenstreet, she could talk and liked a man that could talk also. The following Saturday was to be a jaunt to the McMichael art collection. Magic was in the air, and an invitation for a refreshment that evening lasted until Sunday morning. Round two occurred the following Sunday. La la la la!

But she had periods of good, and then she had periods of bad. Like the first woman that stole my heart she was an artist too. Beware of female artists, I thought. Both of them went a bit strange from time to time.

I am probably fortunate that she disappeared in my rearview mirror. It was a lot of fun for a short time, and I have the memory that I can bring out once in awhile. Funny the things that I remember happening then. A night cruise in a small sailboat with the Italian brothers. Her cat. A silent observer, sitting, staring in the corner. Things never happen without details. They are the sharp corners that too often get worn off.


ivan said...

"She's got everything she needs
She's an artist and she don't look back"?
Yeah, artistic chicks are bright and, well, I got your story. The boat ride really does sound like "out there" on the lake. And the McMichael Gallery? You sure you and I weren't dating the same chick at different times? That's where I used to take my Celia. Pieces of Eight, real pieces of eight, triangular and not like two bits.
And the collection of antique dolls, thought I must say my Celia developed an Ibsen complex and I didn't get laid that night. Artistic chicks are more often than not, feminists. Here's to Ibsen and his goo-goo dolls.
As for Pointer Sisters, that's Motown, Four-Four time with two beats in there. It can rock your soul, yeah. Everybody loves that sound, even the CBC when Bootsy Collins or some of those Supreme chicks are in town.
I wouldn't sell my Sheryl short for range though.
There she was one night at the Grammys all decked out in Dolce and Gabbona pants and stiletto heels the same, accompanied by Faith Hill with a minidress up to here, singing "The Difficult Kind" with a chord tablature (CAPO on the third fret), that went D Em7b5 C9 G D Em7b5 C9 G.
"If you could only see
What love has made of me
Then I'll no longer be
In your mind.."
I'd say that's range, especially with Faith Hill singing contra.
Yeah, yeah, I know. "Another plough jock fan." Ain't necessarily so. Those two chicks can sing, especially when singing together. And they had range.
But then I do go with the Motown testament too. Gladys Knight and the Pips. Eretha Franklin. Respect.
Come to think of it, my love life of late is in between Desperado, another song, and Rodney Dangerfield, who couldn't get any respect till the end.

Anonymous said...

Ivan my friend, it gets better I am told. Years ago I caught W.O. Mitchell on Peter Gzowski's Morningside show. Anything could happen when Bill showed up. PG asked Bill how he was, and Bill said he was better than he had ever been. Years before, he said, his old friend Gregory Clark had told him that when a guy reaches a certain age, his pecker quits leading him around. PG is nervous at this stage, wondering what will Bill will say next. Bill said that your pecker gets you in some awful fixes, "and Peter, you know, it has quit leading me around, and it's WONDERFUL!"

Ivan, just make sure you have lots of memories. Good ones. The bad ones will never do you any good.


ivan said...

That's good stuff, DT, really good.
I have known one or two of those people peripherally. Gzowski left the Canadian at about the time I started. I did get to meet him, did try to get in with his crowd, but was more or less shat upon until I forced Peter, on his home turf in Sutton, Ontario to accept my being in the running by writing for the Lake Simcoe Advocate and other papers in the region, like the Era. I got an Ontario Weekly Newspapers award as a columnist and felt, even though Peter was telling me in so many ways to stay the hell away, I was still making some waves in his own former medium.
Following Maclean's and the Canadian, Peter had cut a huge furrow with MORNINGSIDE and was producing the best radio show in the world. Like really. Got the Peabody Award (American) years later, as you know, and that is big big, big time.
I was always rebuffed by Peter, likely because he saw me as small potatoes, while
Bruno Gerussi, before Peter, seemed to have no ego at all and would freaquently lunch with me, despite his success with his own BEACHCOMBERS.
Oh well, young pricky guy courting the rich and famous. I did meet Robert Fulford and was pretty well almost told to fuck off too, though he has denied this in a personal letter to me whch I made public with Antonia. So RF and I are at leat pen pals.Same with Peggy, though I wouldn't dare call her Peggy.
All that being "confessed", I did spend quite a bit of time in the archives of the Old Star Weekly and there was Greg Clark with his stuff and a whole lot of material from W. O. Mitchell. Jesus, wasn't that the day of the real Canadian writer? Now we have all those Germaine Greer clones who are driving me half crazy.
Yeah W. O. Mitchell and the final inissoluble antinomy of having to keep it in your pants and not letting it lead you around.
It is still leading me around. The older I get, Tom, the worse I seem to get, though I am trying to take the 12 steps in not smelling girls' bicycle seats. I am positive my hard times in Academia stem from the same problem. Could not keep it in my pants with the mature ladies in night classes. Doing the Irving Layton thing. Randy poet.
Well, If I wasn't a big star, I was certainly a pretty good moonhanger when it came to mooning the real stars and scoring half their women, who, for some reason, really liked creative writing courses.
Ho boy.
I dreamed I saw St. Augustine.

Certainly interesting in what you say abut W. O. Mitchell: I have utterly ruined two careers, good ones because I couldn't keep it in my pants.
Yet it seems the older I get in this porn-filled decade, the worse I seem to become, advanced age or no.
Oh well. I am trying, especially now that young girls tired of "stupid" feminism are realizing that all the best guys are taken and Mom's old fashioned was way the best and could I direct them to a good university so they would stop screwing up their lives and get on with the job of being not only serious writers but meeting some really nice guy. The times are exhibiting a crabwise turn to the right.
You've certainly opened up a subject here. The penis with the thesaurus bit.
One day, obsessed with a far bitchier lover than the Felina above, I was told something by another wrier, a Liverpool guy.
"You gotta use the old brain to get you our of Celia's games."
"But I want to use my penis, not my brain. She isn't letting me dick her these days."
Said the Liverpudlian, "It's the same thing now, innit?"
Sure made me pause.
I went to a technical university where the motto was Mind Follows Hand.
heaven forbid it should be Mind Follows Dick. Real piggie, I suppose. And all the lady bloggers know it.
But it's realy more like W.O. these days. All I seem to have is the desire. And fantasy.
I have probably become a harmless old coot. W.O. Mitchell says that's good?

R.J. Baker said...

Ah, insanity and women. What a concept. A few of my past have been on or over the brink. Functionally at or over the edge, did I save or push them, I don't really know. Why do relationships have a preordained shelf-life? The best ones sometimes burn out for one before the other realizes.

The human condition. Monogomy?

We chase. We fantasize. We catch, we release. It ends with a whimper, a gasp, or a purr, but it always ends.

The artist seem to love deeper, and fuck it up worse with drugs or alcohol. Is an artists soul drawn to pain or must we have the yin and yang of pleasure with pain.

Do we travel our path to our own private insanity of loneliness and dispare?

I think.......

ivan said...

Not for nothing do I avoid political campaigns if the stump speeches are on a full moon.Sure indication one shouldn't be in politics.
Thank Christ I gave up politics for Art, whoever this guy Art might be. Now it hello loneliness and "dispare" while in the shadows and trying to write the Great Canadian Novel.

Spaking of loneliness, where are all the women bloggers to comment on all this?
Reminds me of the time a friend took me sailing. We brought in 48 beers and bit by bit, I noticed that all the boats were slipping out of the dock, away from us. There was so much foul language coming out of our boat that no one wanted to hear us swearing and carrying on. They all took off.
Come on, blogging ladies. We're not that good. We won't blow you out of the water.

Anonymous said...

R.J., I noticed some time ago that relationships with women go well and all is happy and bright during the courting stage. He and she are like two boxers, circling in the ring before the first blow is struck. If happiness and politeness could last forever. Guys don't want much; a comfy pair of slippers, uncomplicated questions, not talking about effin' feelings. It all comes unravelled and gets real serious by and by. If only the first stage of a relationship could last longer. If...

Ivan, I think you have scared away all the lady bloggers. You are truly the Old Goat on the mountainside. Without even half trying, I got that little dumpling, the Zerb, to smile at me. She was makin' nice with me, I tell you. Just us guys here. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

I remain, DoubtingThomas
(and so to bed)

ivan said...

The Zerb and I are so tight, I opine, that she'd want to give up Germaine Greer.
And I'm saying this on thirteen beers. Yeah, I look in the mirror and say, deep in my cups, "If only Felina could see me now." Hah.(She would see a drunk, of course).
Fact is, dear pal is that the genre ladies write like I make love, that is to say, rather badly and they really resent anybody who can outdo them in a female medium.
How dare he? Outfeminizing the Feminists.
They are, save for some recent newcomers in my email, stone poseurs. They imitate the actions of tigresses without being real tigressses. Ti-Grace Atkinson?
Learn the trade, Chicks, or you don't rate. You might all get arrested for impersonating writers.
Put in the time to get into the crime novel. If you can't write, don't fight.
There is something birdlike in the writing of all of them, and I ain't no bird.
Godzilla meets Anette Funicello?
Beach party.
It has struck me, through all my years of dating women, that my fundamental fight has been with stupidity. There is no cure.
How the f*ck did I ever sneak into the back door of creative writing?
I don't know. But they know.

Erik Ivan James said...


I don't believe you wrote the above comment to "DT:" on thirteen beers.
So, you are in fact creative.
A creative writer.
Aren't you. (. not ?)
Maybe a drunk at heart.
Trying to be?
Not trying to be?
Once a drunk, always a drunk.
The question;
wet or dry?
Stupid always?
Yes we are.
Doesn't matter,
wet or dry.
Dry, we mitigate the stupidity.
Be well.
Continue to do good work.
Stay in touch.


ivan said...

A rule I always break is not emailing or phoning people while in my cups. So besides the bubbly and somewhat belligerent comment I'd offered to good old DT, four or five poor women must have gotten emails that must have been all but incomprehensible. "Stay off the phone or keyboard when you're snookered," I tell myself, only to give Ma Bell headaches with my weird phone calls and e-missives.
But then I have company of late.
There are women out there who are a lot like me, and then I get the calls and emails. When a body meets a body coming through the Rye?
Heaven forbid that all this should, in it's Bacchanalian way, actually work out. Yep. There are not only drunken Ivans sullying the ether, but "Ivanas" as well.
I am getting hiccuppy mash notes and I hiccup back.
The Beatles: "I look at all the lonely people."
Bring it on, Eleanor Rigby.

Erik, I know how serious you are about your life and your pursuit of writing. This is impressive and I respect, highly respect you for it.
But I am so much like my mother, who is quite mad, but an unrecogognized poetess. At the apex of an episide,she would sometimes search for a drink or a smoke too, though those times were rare. I think she (the whole family actually) was bashing me around physically, trying to hammer out a poet.
The first thing a male novelist does, in his first novel, is to paint his mother, be she bitch or goddess.
I have done this with my very first book, The Black Icon, Chapter two of which I might put up just after this response.
The odd thing was when the book came out, with its European icon cover, she would mount copies of it all over the house for all to see that her son was a poet. Not quite "My son the doctor", but "My son the novelist." It was touching in its own weird way, but she'd give me a smack, or try to give me a smack on the side of the ear just to show she loved me, I suppose. Eastern European mothers are mad! They have mad progeny. Inclined towards the vodka.
On writing: It is a daemon/itis a craft. I'm not sure which.
The blog up above was done by craft. I carefully researched what I was going to say, made sure I had the "tablature" all right, and then threw in the emotion I felt. It is the emotion that should be communicated with the application of craft and tact. ME having tact?
...Well,you've got to discipline yourself sometimes. A finished novel is an application of disciple. Lucky I was in the army, I suppose.
The other way of approaching your, um, muse is to open yourself to her, drunk or sober. She will undo your buttons and you will be infused with a story or poem, almost intact when it comes out. No editing, no "craft."
I would opine that you are intelligent and controlled. Good.
Myself, I am something of a crazy bastard , but I suppose that's the nature of the beast. I've been on the wagon a number of times and fell off every time. I respect you for staying on.
It's just that with me, when it comes to writing, I can do it drunk or sober, though I wouldn't attempt something fact-bound, like journalism while juiced...Lose more jobs that way!

R.J. Baker said...

“A woman watches her body uneasily, as though it were an unreliable ally in the battle for love.”
Leonard Cohen

Drinking and writing, what a delicious perilous mix....

The crutch of drink for the afflicted and artist, the crutch of all time. Is this the drink from the tree of knowledge that God warned of, that we would see ourselves naked and know the truth? Or is it just a fools errand, a folly, deluding the talented and not alike, driving the pursuit of immortality in drunken bliss...

ivan said...

You dig up some great stuff, man.
(I was just thinking of that Virgil quote about the cross (phallus?) in the fields that you'd cited by way of Virgil in your blog, It was in response to some dumb statement of mine). Not that I am a Popeye reader, or anything like that,
I have read some Virgil through our Florentine pal Dante, but I never came up across that quote.

Ah old Dante. Doen't he present a perfect hell of a landscape?
Good thing you and I seem to have asbestos boots. F*cking hot place.
And more often than not, it's right here.

Erik Ivan James said...


For me twas a crutch.
A crutch that busted.
I fell.
Fun and folly for awhile.
Fools errand finally.

For others?
Maybe bliss.
Maybe immortality.
Each must travel his own path.

Dante wrote the comedy.
I didn't.
I just went through the gates.
They closed.


ivan said...

Hope R.J. gets a comment in before this page turns over.
I was just thinking of something Frank Stronach, father of local politician Belinda Stronach said to some Katrina survivors he's building a home for: "Life is about fate and circumstance. Natural disasters leave us with something to think about."
Funny thing about multi-billionaire Frank.
He and I come from roughly the same background. We were both probably bombed (not alchol) repeatedly during The Last European Misundestanding. World War Two was a noisy bitch. Frank came out as a Billionnaire (he only gave me five minutes last time I talked to him) and I came out as an eccentric lush with a writing flair.
I guess Frank was quoting Ecclesiastes, the Apocrypha, or "Added to."
Time and chance indeed.
I like to think that it's purgatory and not hell we're in.
I do believe the cone is expanding. Jung says you have no idea of how good it is on the other side.
Hope he's right. Even the great C.G. Jung had Freud kicking his ass all the time. In the shadows.

Anonymous said...

what a site!
Ron g