Saturday, May 27, 2006

Lomlick the Push-Me Pull-You

Today I am a scribe.
Tomorrow, I will be a rock critic.
The next day I will be an actual rock star.
The next day, I will be a scribe again.

Put away the violin, said the journalism teacher. It has to be one thing or the other.

"You give people the impression of great versatility," says the mannish editor in her sailor suit. You do respect her though, she has a PhD. "They are always feeding you stuff...Like thing they think you would be interested in."

I don't know where it comes from. I am one lucky Idiot-savant. I pick up the guitar and the damn thing plays riffs on its own. I am somewhere out there watching. "Why am I standing here in the lights with this thing in my hand?"

"Because you are a rock star, asshole," says the drummer.

"Why am I sitting here in front of the keyboard?"

"Because you're a writer," says the sailor-suit lady.

My friend, Abdulla the Shrink says your identity is what you do--over and over again. You have to do it, over and over again.

That's it?

"That's it in a nutshell."

Don't like his choice of words.

But he is from Sri Lanka. What a f*cked up situation. What a f*cked up guy. War. Pestilence. Famine. Yet he is an MD who has somehow slid in despite the Pakistani quota, first or fifth generation. He knows the deal, he knows the score.

"Bad time to be a Christian. A Hebrew. A Hindu. A Muslim."

--Paul Simon

I am a cultural hermaphrodite, like my shrink. I too, have been through pestilence, war and famine. But my rugged relatives have ignored all this, put it aside, like Dr. Abdulla. Became professionals, millionaires. I was the sole schizo, man of many personalities and master of none.

I checked myself into a nut house to figure all this out, but soon the place started to drive me crazy. That and the fact that all my hopes, dreams, ambitions led me straight to here. Straight to the nuthouse. For this all the hard work, the education, the production of stories and novels? "Your identity is what you do, over and over again," said Abdulla the Shrink. But like at least one of my correspondents, I do a number of things, and most of them reasonably well.

The answer, I suppose, always springs from high humour.

Q: What do you call a Newfoundlander (Okie?) who has completed Grade Eight?
A: Gifted.

Well, they told me I had a gift. A long time ago. But there was a warning: You won't eat bread from it. You will have to do other things. Teach, clean ferryboats. Deliver auto parts. Teach people to climb rock faces.

I have done all these things and I am no closer to success or piety.

I had entered the fight for success, love, glory--and actually achieved some, but suddenly there was just me and my karma mechanic, Abdulla the Shrink.

I have a part-time job as an instructor in rock climbing. This I do badly, because I can't tie knots. Or untie them.

"You are crazy, but not stupid," says the boss.

"Go on through, go on through," I tell an imaginary demon who is honking for the road across my chest.


"What do you mean I'm crazy," I ask the boss.

"Because I just heard you yell out 'Mona!' as if to an imaginary lover."


The young girl is forty feet in the air. I fear I have put her harness on wrong. I somehow rappel her down.

I am giving up instructing rock climbers. Heights scare the daylights out of me.

Certified rock climbing instructor.

Certified all right.

Smart enough to get out before I kill somebody.

Schizophrenics are supposed to be highly intelligent. I am not, O Lord I'm not!

Put a good-looking, pliant woman in front of me and I am her slave. I will forsake my children, my wife, my life. I will give up my mitt bag, my kit bag, yea even my shitbag.

The thing has no conscience. The brain and the penis are all the same, each wanting to get off. Hunger for truth. Hunger for tail.

Hemingway says the thing can be solved by putting a gun to your upper head and a meat clever to your lower head.

Yeah. Some solution. Noble as hell.

The professors at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute: "There must be increasing respect for the kook. More often than not, it is the kook who is the only one in town who knows anything."

Frank Zappa: "You know, there's this guy in town and he has a chicken in bondage up in his attic. He's the only one in town who knows anything." My profs were aping the wisdom of Frank Zappa?

My instructor of Speech: "You can make any room LARGER, LONGER and BRIGHTER with ONE-COAT WALL PAINT.”

"You have to reach a level of delivery where you feel you are almost hysterical, and it is at this point that it will come out just right."

Ah, the spoken word.

But it can't hold a candle to a well-crafted short story, with its use of imagery, white space and the ability to jog memories. Broadcasters generally write like I make love...rather badly of late.

Ah, but the mixture of broadcasting and writing at the journalism school. That was the trick, the revelation.

You began to understand tone, nuance. Some people have built empires on it, like my prof friend, Bruce Rogers.

You still alive Bruce? Damn, you were good.

As were we all.

But there were things you knew. You knew how to edit tape. How a speech by a politician could be edited into its opposite meaning and no one would know the difference. Comes out sounding perfect. And perfectly false.

Lord, I am a kook.

Am I the only one who has noticed that they have edited all the tapes and the only tapes left are the tapes playing in your head? The sudden snapped continuity on public television whenever anybody mentions George Bush.

You can't manipulate a crazy bastard because you never know what the crazy bastard is going to do.


Always hear more than the band is playing. Or not playing.

Is it any wonder that they persecute the writers first?

For the past forty years, I have been clocking my fellow-humans sprint back to the dark ages.

Darker than psychiatry.


Anonymous said...

> I just dropped in to see what condition your condition was in...either
> pole is cool...mandrake had trouble with rock climbing, a slow
> moving "shazam",what goes around,comes around...just be ready for it...
> ace zop

ivan said...

You mean that was lightning bolt emblazoned on my chest? Holy Shazam!
Watch out evil Dr. Silvana. Gonna come and getcha! KA-POW!

Anonymous said...

Some people considered Thelonious Sphere Monk to be mad, but maybe it was his way of coping with a crazy world that he saw. The world is crazy, you know, and some people sleep through it, or look for relief in a bottle...or hockey. Monk could play the 88 keys like few others. Sometimes it was too much, and he would jump up and twirl around, a dervish of the hats. A man of few words, the piano talked for him when he sat on the stool and let that right foot dance. Bebop. Rebop.

Anonymous said...

> ram lama ding dong...
> ace zop

ivan said...

Yeah, I know, "ace zop".
Back in the rock'n'roll Fifties and early Sixties we'd all play
"Who Put the Bop in the Bop-she-bop-she bop, who put the Ram in the rama-rama-ding dong". Like me in those days, you were also probably "Putting the Meat in the Meteor" out in the parking lot. But it seems Doubting Thomas knows that phrase and he has syncopated it into jazz, bebop, the "Melodius Thunk" of Thelonious Monk.
I only had a passing interest in jazz in those days but it was obvious that Thelonious Monk could play rings around us.

We had to wait a generation for Herbie Hancock to give us a weather report, and unfortunately,
the weather report turned out bad, bad, bad.

Right now I'd put my stock on White Stripes, but you've heard me playing that riff before.

Austin City Limits on a Friday night, I say.
All the new great guys and gals are coming up and they have things to say.

Christ, every performer seems to have an audience of musicians.

I know you play, ace zop.

And Doubting Thomas plays the piano as well?

Certainly knows his music.

Anonymous said...

Nope, don't (can't) play the piano. One of those worthwhile things I haven't done yet. Can play the radio though, hell, I can BUILD a radio, and have. Can't say that I have ever heard a White Stripes song, maybe that is another neat thing waiting for me. Watched Austin City Limits many years ago, heard that it disappeared, aware that it came back.

I was watching "The Midnight Special" back in 1979 when the train went boom in Mississauga. Right on the beat, too!

Musical geniuses, Monk, Chet Baker, Lenny Breau, all with a fatal flaw that finally got 'em. But they played that sweet, sweet music.

Can writing exist without music that talks to the writer?


ivan said...

I've stumbled upon a late-Fifties hipster. You that old Tom?
Well, certainly part of my growing up. Back then, hipsters were intellectual and not juist into the Lord of the Rings, which I have found to be great therapy for an old man, but what, what, I say
was J.R.R. Tolkien talking about.
I fear, at worst, that it was Lord of the Ring-pieces. Philistine, I know.
I am intrigued by your question, "can writing exist wihout music that talks to the writer?"
Well, I hear things; you hear things.
In your case, it makes you write sort of good.

Anonymous said...

> Ivan:
> Wanted to let you know your old pal Bruce Rogers is alive and, for all
> I know, well. He lives in northern Durham Region (Blackstock) I think
> and is a perpetual candidate for the NDP, running provincially,
> federally and, on occasion, municipally, invariably without success.
> Could be I'm applying my definition of success to New Democratic
> political endeavours and that one may not be the same as the other.
> What is success to a dipper running in Redneck Country? Making it
> through without being lynched? still having a house to live in?
> All things being relative, I could see where not finishing behind the
> Christian Heritage Party might be construed as success.
> ... At any rate, someone should tell Bruce to take down his campaign
> signs; the election was five months ago.
> JM

ivan said...

I guess Bruce and I should hang around together. (We used to when he was a Ryerson prof...One brainy guy!).
...Hang around together because I too keep running for office and am sometimes rewarded by having my office razed.
Like teacher, like student?

I must say Bruce was one hell of an instructor. Harvard quality (they in fact asked him, but he opted for the money in broadcasing and teaching).
He sure as hell was PhD material.

R.J. Baker said...

Publish or die? Is that the moral to the story?

ivan said...

Hi R. J.
I think you had pointed out elsewhere that a lot of bloggers just wanted to publish or die. They just like the idea of being published, of having their name on a work without actually completing the work. Kind of a fanaticism.
Raw talent will give you that kind of obsession.
Myself, I was spoiled rotten by my "I -think -I -can technical university, where publishing was pretty well automatic. You had your daily college newspaper to air your views and there was the literary magazine where if you submitted enough material, sometimes sheer volume would get you in. You just kept peppering the literary magazine with your poems and short stories until something would stick.
When I got out into the real world I found that writing was more often than not a business, the job was to sell advertising and my dark shades and long cigarette holder were soon gone. No more the artistic hep-cat. Smart editors would assert that all fine writing leads to zen, existentialism and "all that rot" and the idea of any story was to get to the heart of the matter with a minimum of fluff and puffery. The lead, the body, the point of a story, the point agreeing with the lead--that was the entire trick.

Well yeah. Up to a point. I did manage for a long time o write what I pleased, landed a job at the Toronto Star and found I couldn't write what I pleased. The Star was an is, very heavily edited and out of five news pieces, or thin-pieces, four would be left in the wastepaper basket.
It wasn't until I got into slick magazines that I was able to add a little flair to the writing.
But thee is the plus factor. If your writing is fine enough and heartfelt enough, you can still get into the toughest markets. The sine qua non is still, "can he/she write?"
So the question is, really, can you write?
If you think you can, and other people think you can, then publishing should follow.
But I think your question is an intelligent one: Would an amtiious writer do anything, anything at all to get published?
The answer, I fear, is yes.
Unto the gates of hell.

R.J. Baker said...

Sell your soul and enter the Gates of Hell...or keep your soul and enter submission Purgatory where work lingers fot many months only to be rejected. There must be a better way but with 5M people in the US considering themselves writers, I guess even very good writers have a snowball's chance in Hell of publication.

ivan said...

The probably dead John Braine used to say,"trust your instincts...they will never let you down."
Then he wrote Room at the Top and blew the world away.
So what are your instincts telling you? That you can't make the cut?

I feel pretty well that way all the time, will I, will I ever make the grade?
Somehow I do, but more often than not, I publish the damn thing myself and next thing you know, some real publisher gets it and pays you for it.
I think I've suggested this before, but I'm sure lawyers have a newsletter or some sort of yearbook. Write something about the law, your experiences in it, polish your story to the point of hurting it and, who knows?
The thing is, Robert, is that you have arrived at the craft rather late...need a lot of catch-up time.
Don't push the river. Start with things you know, like defending miscreants...Come to think of it one of the Salvation Army magazines might just be interested.

Erik Ivan James said...

R.J. knows what his story is to tell. For damn sure. All we gotta do is stick the nipple back in his mouth, kick him in the ass, throw him out into it, and bolt the door behind.

ivan said...

Well Erik, one thing we seem to all agree on, Everybody loves R. J.
and his quest.
Discipline. He has, I know; been in the Army and if you've never had discipline, that is one place you can get it.
A writer without discipline is like a cop wirth no squad car, or a fireman with no hose. A Cancer Society worker with no anti-smoking campaign.
The military is longer and stronger than high school. It does, beside some obvious and terminal damage, build discipline.
And you don't get through law school without it.
But dammit, R. J., get a dictionary and thesaurus.

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