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.

"See?"

"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."

Oh.

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.

Madness.

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.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

How to write a novel. Part One

This old tortoise is fast meeting his hares.

Parallel situation.

Thirty years ago, I had some students who felt for sure that they had forgotten more about writing than I was prepared to teach them. They were so good. They were so precocious. They already had their B.A.'s. They would be the next generation of teachers and writers.

Except that they couldn't write and any criticism or advice I had to offer was somehow a personal affront. I gave them writing assignments and they would not complete them. Feelgood education back then in a skewed high school system in Canada. You knew how to shuffle paper, but you could not write, or, for that matter add.

Not in my nature, but I had to fail them, one by one. I could not embarrass the institution.

The trouble with most advice you get about writing a novel, especially on the internet is that the advice is, more often than not, offered by a second generation of the feelgood crowd, few of them with a word published and so the blind and even dyslexic tend to lead the blind and dyslexic. Makes for a good social club and perhaps an even better cult, but save for often colourful essays and even more rococo responses, little is actually accomplished.

Writing a novel is serious business. For some, it is the only business. The monomaniacs, the fanatics, the real professionals.

Myself as a sort of literary Push Me-Pull You, I have explored some of the ways, including side trips of deliberately writing for money, which is journalism and some forays into pure well-paid humour.

But there is nothing humorous about the enterprise of writing a novel.

It is, more often than not, a lifetime quest, the dream, the lifestyle, the execution. The execution is sometimes your own, especially if you blow the novel for I have found that you have to break the work or it will break you.

I am quite influenced by the work of John Braine, how he goes about writing a novel, the rugged prose instead of clever and sometimes deranged stream- of -consciousness, symbolism, Dada and all that. It seems to me that it's best to write like a Yorkshireman, direct, clear-eyed and in plain English.

That being said, I tend to write like an expatriate Pole trying to be Joseph Conrad.

So to begin: Do not attempt the novel before thirty, but do try to work on some short stories which could be included in your school's literary magazine , yearbook--your city's promotional material that can sometimes include your poems or short stories--that sort of thing. Cut your teeth. Get the feel of what they used to call printer's ink running through your veins. Hang around, if you can, with published writers. Hang around the Press Club. Hang around the funkier book stores. Get a job there if you can, especially if the owner is eccentric and has a chapbook operation behind the store.

But the best training is with a large metropolitan newspaper. Why? Because there you will learn to steam-clean your prose, to write economically, to discern finally the line between English composition and writing.

Nice work if you can get it. Well you can get it. You can get it by making a lot of noise as a poet or short story writer, preferably in a college magazine. You will be noticed. And if you can't do that, go to where the managing editors go, usually a good watering hole. I used to drink hugely with Ray Timson, the ME at the Toronto Star. This was after one Gerry Toner gave me a good break and I somehow blew it. I had to startdrinking with other editors. Some of Ray's his advice was good, some was bad.

But Ray was one of the most respected editors at the Star, a natural writer and well-liked. Another gifted man was Rae Corelli and another gifted person, a female, Pat Williams was extremely supportive, convinced, poor woman, that I would be the next Balzac.

Well, I came part of the way. I was finally offered an Ontario Council grant for my Light Over Newmarket, and somehow, by hook and crook and the Council's help, I finally saw Light Over Newmarket published. Reviews were pretty good, one recent in Aaron Braaten's blog, Grandinite.

But I still hadn't made the big time. Not the Big Apple. Not New York.

I did eventually end up with an agent, who did drop me for some technical mistakes I kept making (now I was the student) and though he compared my work to Saul Bellow's Henderson the Rain King, he also told me he was not Maxwell Perkins. I would have to make the corrections on my own. He did not entirely avoid suggesting I find a new agent and good luck with that.

So it's not always a clear path. You might lose some hair and teeth writing a novel, but you are never fully done. When you think you're done, you're only half done.

But I finally got it done. Done, at least, to my own satisfaction.

I have sent the book to a New York friend who knows his way around.

There is a satisfaction of putting THE END to a work, but the work, more often than not, may have its antecedents in a whole lot of worms, personal problems, family anxieties, ethnicity, rejection, failure, pain. Reality television, if you will. But crafted, you hope, into something not ugly, something fine.

In the course of writing a novel, I have mislaid an entire family, have journeyed through alcohol, madness and loss of respect--the gods are jealous--and only then was anything accomplished.No pain, no gain.

The beginning novelist, says Norman Mailer, is almost always a prick and I worry about that. Really worry about it.

So how do you start your novel, asshole?

Not the traditional way, not "It was a dark and stormy night", though it was good enough for Snoopy and it might even be good enough for you.

You begin with something you had written in the past, something you'd had published, actually published, way back there, when you were cutting your teeth. Your best blog perhaps, or something you had somehow smuggled into commercial print. That particular piece had a reason for being outstanding enough to be published or to be praised by people you respected while in blog form, and that is probably where the gold is. You were younger then, and not a real writer. You wrote from the heart, not yet a slip-slider, angle-taker flim-flam man and general mountebank who is the Beatles' famous Paperback Writer.

You begin with the best thing you'd had published as a young man or woman and you start to mine that material.

With me, it was The Black Icon, a book I thought I'd blown, but with some help from a creative writing instructor, I was able to salvage it, using only the first third of the book, which involved the character's birth into war and famine and a final salvation by reaching Canada with his parents who somehow survived the horrors of the Second World War by sheer blind luck, though Dad did do a spell in a concentration camp.

It is best, I suppose, by beginning with "I was born"; or "He was born", or "She was born". Take the first paragraph out of an old Sixties novel by John Fowles, The Magus and the example will do only too well. I believe he went, "I was born the son off middleclass parents themselves under the shadow of that monstrous dwarf, Victoria. My parents died early and it was soon apparent to me that I was not equipped by heredity to be the kind of person I wanted to be."

But then the skill, the skill. You need to acquire the skill. You need to acquire a painter's use of overlay, all that background action and description attaining a compact whole. Literary finesse.
This is almost impossible to acquire.

But, you might say, I only want to write commercial fiction, the thriller, the mystery novel.

No matter. The same degree of skill.Have you every tried writing commercial shit? Difficult, isn't it? Very difficult.

Especially difficult if you don't know about overlay or literary finesse.

Here is something by one Gordon Cotler, SHOOTING SCRIPT, of some ten years back.

I thought I caught a glimpse of Stavros as I was getting out of my car in the network parking lot, but I couldn't be sure; the southern California morning sun had bleached the scene almost to white on white. And whoever I saw had climbed into a car in the section marked RESERVED FOR TALENT. Not even the most indulgent definition of talent would have given the nod to Stavros. Still, real or imagined, his was a portent. I just wasn't willing to accept that anything having to do with Nicholas Stavros could be portentous. He was an annoyance, a minor one I expected to fade like a bad sunburn.

Okay. You notice that quite a few things are going on in this bestseller opener.

There is overlay for sure, almost painterly. Notice the Southern California sun having bleached the scene to almost white on white, sort of like gesso on a canvas. There is a quick description of Stavros and the psychological space he projects for the narrator. There is also hardly a word wasted. This is best-seller style. Hope you can attain it.

I never have. But I am at least a reader who at the same time knows for sure that he has produced more brute word count in commercial print than any recent bestseller author. Three million words in print, and I still wonder sometimes if I will really ever get it.

So the thing is for your opening paragraph to be a snapper, but a snapper crafted by skilled and experienced hands, hopefully your hands. You are not fooling around here. You are writing for your life.

Chapters follow a kind of magazine rule, lead, body and point, the point finally agreeing with the lead. Rules are always made to be broken, but in general terms, your opener should be a snapper and your chapter closer must be a snapper as well. You've got to keep them turning pages.

Online, it is a different story. It is your genius, like maybe young Chuckercanuck's out of Montreal, that will bring out the real gold.You may have to be the doctors daughter with a checkered past to finally arrive at this level of ability, but a person like Chucker seems to have it al the same. I do believe this all comes from the mother. I am a firm believer that your character comes from the father but your genius from your mother. Or not. But probably.

The most important thing is your first chapter. This is the um, seminal beginning.. This is where you were born, in fact and in metaphor.

Write a good first chapter and the rest will more or less follow. If you have the will, had put in the time and have acquired the skill.

I'll have more to say on this as we go along.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Spongebob Squarepants as lover

I think it was Pindarello who could tease a comedy out of a tragedy.

What follows is a lothario's attempt to show how good he was with women--and failing miserably, reaching almost Jerry Lewis proportions as in The Nutty Professor.

It's in Chapter Six of my novel, The Fire in Bradford.

.............

Right from the beginning, there was something wrong with the entire night. She drove over in her pert, powder-blue mustang. She was wearing those quasi-army surplus designer tank dungarees, except in her case, they clung to her figure, which was like a harp in the first place. She had her hair neatly up in what were almost little corn rows, and I observed, over drinks at the Granada Restaurant, how beautiful she really was. The nice little character lines framing the widest,though right-to-miniature-scale mouth, the large eyes. "Are you ever pretty," I told her again and again. We kept ordering drinks, seemed to forget about everything altogether and got quite tipsy. Our bacchanalia was interrupted for only twenty short minutes when Deighton Ronning, an old friend, joined us, showed impeccable table manners, and then left.

Everything was in a beautiful haze. I was constructing huge, sprawling novels in the smoky air. Here I was the failure prof and politician with a beautiful woman right across the table from me, Deighton Ronning having muttered to himself , just before leaving, "What a good looking couple." I was in my glory. But what about Leif? What was hubby going to say when we got "home"?

Finally, we--or rather she--paid the cheque. I was flat broke from the politics and teaching expenses and squirmed not a little when she bantered a little with Greek Chris, the owner--the svelte movie star with the heartbreakingly tight tank pants and halter top paying for the bum's dinner and drinks. It was right there that the comedy of errors began.

The Mustang, which was parked just behind the library, would not start. I ground and cranked till the motor seemed driven to ground. Uhrrr.

What to do?

Passing us, turning a corner, was a red truck with the son of Deighton, our accidental dinner mate, driving.

"Hey Jim!"

He tried to fix the trouble, which seemed to lie in a deteriorated distributor cap. Cobbled it together.

Temporarily repaired, we drove west along Millard Avenue to stop where it became a hairpin, renaming itself Queen Street now. . More waving, the two socialites, our car hood up again.
Soon portly and suited Dave Mazdakowski showed up. It was a small town everybody knew everybody else, Dave Mazdakowski, who happened, just happened to be the local Mazda dealer. What else?

He observed Celia and me in trouble, pulled up the sleeves of his $300 suit, which was camel hair and almost valeur, a dark shade, and tried to fix the trouble. No luck, though some sort of recognition seemed to flash between Dave and Celia. "Try it now, Dan." Nothing. Not even a sound. Car won't go

Dave finally rolled down his sleeves, confided to me that his own mechanic lived just down the street, told me the house number and sped off in his new Mazda. Not for nothing did they call him Dave Mazdakowski.

This is taking forever to get going. Would I be able to get my own distributor cap going? I watched Celia pull out her handbag one more time, saw the little Italian mechanic fussing with the distributor and Presto. We were on our way.

Having parked the car, we entered the house from the rear and I thought that this was it, now I was going to get it. Was Leif right there with a shotgun?

Suddenly, in Celia's face, I saw an accopliece's face, a female Kavorkian, and the suicide would be mine. The Last Supper. And then Lief would probably hold court, tell me what is what and throw me out of the house, as I knew what I'd do had the circumstances been reversed. OK for me to "serve the drinks," to be in control, to dish it out, but sometimes you could well get dished.

But there was no Lief.

On the C-shaped chesterfield again, the two of us, sighing, content. She touched my arm and excused herself to go off and fiddle with something in the kitchen. Then, just as quickly, she was back. We had gotten quite used to being with each other, so gestures and nuances were quickly understood between us. Almost like being in love.

"Are you hungry? No? Well, let's just keep drinking." Tout.

Suddenly she was on me in a flash of inspired dry-humping that very quickly aroused desire. She just jumped on top of me and pumped and pumped. I had an erection that was surely the size of the CN Tower and it was driving me fairly nuts. Lover's nuts.

I turned to reverse positions, looking right at her maddened face. I cradled her lovely blonde head in my right arm and moved toward the tight zipper of her little dungarees. I passed the fiery angel at the gate, having discovered she had no underpants at all, and I was soon inside her pretty little vagina.

''Pretty smooth", she whispered to me, but her face showed some alarm. I stroked her as gently as I could. She had taken to being very still.

There is an audience here, somewhat ghostly, somewhat Jungian. A trickster god is asking me to enquire of her, 'Am I doing you any good? The answer came in some really nice little muscular action.

I had to get those damn jeans off her.

Nice work if you can get it.

Married a long time and later used to going with women my own age, I knew nothing at all about removing Sixties-style women's jeans. There must be several schools. One is to pull the open top down and have her wiggle out; the other was to have her sit before you, using your left hand to open the stud and then peeling down.

I did neither of these things, awkward son of a bitch, trying to pull the skin-tight jeans from the cuff ends, dragging the poor woman halfway across the chesterfield, no doubt giving her a hell of a rash.

When all else fails, the direct approach, crude, but, I hoped, effective. I zipped down my own fly, pulled out my penis, which, having no comparison, I fancied very large and erect. I put her delicate hand on it and she masturbated me, skillfully and effectively.

And then it all came apart. Dear God, how drunk were we? She stood up before me, me on my back on the chesterfield. I seemed to have her transfixed. She made to kneel over me like a beautiful Madonna, but I saw in my mind's eye some sort of real icon and I put both hands on her shoulders to stop her. I could not do it. She was just too beautiful, this blonde Madonna with the prettiest lips going down on me. Besides, I would have left a load on her clean chesterfield.

Missionary position or nothing.

I went again to remove here jeans, in the same awkward fashion only to have her zip them back up, to suddenly turn from me and go into her bedroom.

She came back still in her jeans with something for me to drink. I took it, absent-mindedly, tasted it and asked if I could have some more vodka in it. Distressed, frustrated, I tol her I had to have a good stiff shot to fight off cramps, lover's nuts, and all those things that come to plague teenagers and grown men.

Right after the drink, the room began to spin. I watched her disappear again is some sort of hazy Bermuda fog.

And the fog went right to my head and I was out like a light.

I came-to to find her in my arms, just as before. I was fondling her erect breasts, the nice little ones with the protruding nipples and she was staring into my eyes, point-blank, asking me if she reminded me of my wife. "Yes. Yes you do, Celia", I told her and then she used a face-to-face visual trick that my own wife had often used, the eye-to-eye forehead contact, peering into the other person's eyes to have them become huge cartoon eyes with their comical blink, sheer intimacy, head-to-head intimacy, like teenage love.

Something made me turn my eyes aside.

Then she was suddenly in my lap and I massaged her breasts some more. But whatever she had given me to drink, it was hitting me again. Suddenly, I was tired. Very, very tired. Dead tired. I wanted to go to sleep. She lifted me with her hand from the sofa, groggy in my stockinged feet. She measured herself against me.

"You know, you're not so tall." She eyed me critically as she stood against me.

"We little people have to try harder."

She kissed me. "I don't think I'll take any more courses from you."

My head is spinning. I know I can have here here right now--if I hadn't already had her in my blank spell, hypnotized, perhaps in ever being able to remember. I can have here right now, but I am oh, so tired, so tired.

I begged to go to sleep in the spare room. "Come with me. Lie down with me," I invited. "No", she said. "You know what will happen." So maybe she had some control after all.

She stood in the open doorway of her bedroom, a pale light streaming behind her, while I made for my own allotted room, Lief's rec room. I think at about five a. am. I went to the bathroom for a leak and she swas still standing there, like Socrates in a catatonic trance. Certainly like a beautiful sphinx on the head of a coin. Numious.

I woke up with a feeling my almost-dinner guest Deighton Ronning had, often described, he of the florid face and a heart that refused to pump erection-blood. . Seems like I had been to a whorehouse and had never even gotten laid. . I knew everything but what things cost, actually cost. I had not had the energy, the force of will, the nerve to actually get laid. Or did she not want to be laid? Or had we actually gone to bed and she had left me with some sort of strange iplant? I did feel as if she had taken something from me. I from her?

It was later in the morning now. She was wearing a paiseley dress. I sat on the shank end of the chesterfield and had the first morning's view of her, the almost Victorian paiseley dress, knees together in almost a virgin pose, or was it the look of a frustrated woman who had wanted to get laid, but the lothario had just been too dumb.

"I think we've been spending too much time together," she announced "Let's go back to the writing circle. Let's go out with other people."

I was crestfallen. Merde!

She gave me a flash of eyes. "I hope you don't think I'm a loose woman."

If I did, your box would be shaved, the trickster Newfoundlander in my head is hissing at me, down there, deep inside.

She drove me back to the bus terminal. In spite of the strange night, I felt as if I had been loved more thoroughly that I'd ever been loved before. Why was that?

I felt it all day, right down to the time I masturbated to her memory before going to sleep in my room in Toronto.

There appeared to be a small needle prick in the crook of my arm.

And the next day I woke up feeling like a fool. I had not connected, it seemed to me. I had failed.

..........end chapter

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Passion

Recently, on the internet, lady genre writers have been excited over expressing passion in a character, perhaps so much passion that it may overshadow the plot.

Don't know about my own writing. I've certainly been described as an actual character on many occasions. But when it comes to my own characters, there is passion aplenty.

And there are times when emotions are so powerfully felt, they must be put in the shape of a poem, for here is where you can express these emotions.

Something published quite some time ago in a Town of Newmarket promotional magazine (I knew the editor personally, a lady):

Love Poem

He saw the teardrop on the rose
And again, he saw the teardrop on a rose
And he knew he could never melt the teardrop
And he knew this was already the end.

So he kissed the face of the evening wife
As he had kissed it before, in all its varying forms
And again said hello to the precipice of silence
A precipice of silence
For his eighteen months of loving

The Queen of Swords is crossed over
And all the king's horses and all the king's men
Are trying to get her together again
like me
To no avail

Gigolo and Gigolet
This side of the lake of mutilation
Strike a match
And the hotel burns

There is only
this path of silence
As we dump our gods
And become like them

And here is the experience that gave rise to the poem, though I fear the writer, at the time was more experienced than talented:

YUPPIES THREW ME OUT

Life lays down strange asphalt for men to tread on in the dark and I have just left Yuppie City.

She was gorgeous, but she was expensive, the other guy had more and so defeat has left me divided, anger was very much in my taste and I contained within myself all the bitter exhaustions of a 47-year-old man while maintaining the cockiness of a bright boy:
Yuppies threw me out.

I was on the edges of what first seemed a literary circle, new friends high on Jung and something mysterious late at night that I was not quite privy to until I met the one I loved, heretofore a clear spoken and articulate girl rolling her O's like an idiot and really strung out on what must surely have been heroin.

Life lays downs strange asphalt and who knows what people do in Hell, especially when the other man was driving a new BMW, mustachioed Italian, his Newsboy hat on, tweed jacket with elbow patches, the pimp outfit, and you were still stuck in second gear. This was all so far ahead of you, they and their hiss of long cigarette lighters, the spoons, the garbled talk, as if they were driving a bottlemobile.

There is an old B movie abut voguish modern people who were allowed to party all the days of their lives, it seemed, till you realized that down below, there was a vicious mutant ant colony that would snare the revelers, one by one and stick them into a cocoon for later, casual devourment.

Yes, they were all down there south of Finch Avenue where the grass was dream grass and women would come and call themselves lonely.

How does it come to a man just hitting his prime, at the top of his professional form, in the middle of his success to be snared on a path that must surely be evil and only the strength of the mad can save him as the Chicklety smell of crack is high upstairs and the one you love in the clutches of a beast?

The middle class can sometimes be a class of bozos.

They always seek definitions, rather than seeing things for what they actually are. They try to define pornography, for instance, without realizing its palpable effect on them and other people; they toy with concepts of personal freedom without realizing that outright pimps snare beautiful women ever day, even from the apartments where they live. It's not all heaven in those gated communities, but more like like wifeswapping and uppermiddleclass peeping tomism while the beat goes on and the roses fade.

An old Russian proverb says untruth did not begin with us, nor will it end with us; praying kneads no dough.

I had no dough, prayed often, and Yuppies threw me out.

Can it be, can it just be that money is all there is, that people will prostitute themselves for it, live in hell for it and worship is as the newly rich do, even unto the gates of organized crime? For that is the sinister "safety net": At the bottom of the drinking the sex and the drugs and the open marriages are the Masters who make the rules for the wise men and the fools in a lower branch of Yuppiedom, the unholy collusion of Big Business, Big Government and organized crime.

It was an expensive education for an aging don still high on literature, a onetime luminary at the college, but now known by all to have gone more than a little to seed, especially by the company he was keeping.

First came the unofficial literary circle, then the introduction to an "open marriage" (a strange concept to me in those times, even though everybody seemed to be doing it), and then the inevitable jealousy, the pain and the final revulsion. What a shitty documentary I was in.

Nevertheless, it was the Yuppies who threw me out.

At first I resisted. One-on-one relationships were less complicated, the only ones that would work in the end.

After the first contact, I stayed away-- chaste fiance, hah-- dated no one. I wanted my love all to myself, not ad hoc, not in some strange daisy chain on the edges of Hell.

Until the frightening realization came to me that evil was just as much in me as in them and that I was beginning to love this woman very much and would almost gladly go to the ends of hell for her.

And she had told me that I was not the only one.

A half-fucked fox in the middle of a forest fire.

She bought me a toaster one day and I did not understand.

She paid my rent one day and I did not understand.

She said she wanted "out" and I did not understand.

And now the Beast is with her and I finally understand.

I did not have the guts or the intelligence, dumb prof, to go through the depth of Hades to rescue her and now must go through another hell of considering how weak I had been, how bad my timing had been. I was no better than those phonies at the literary circle, that collection of poseurs and wife-swappers and the fault was all mine.

She passed my door on night sobbing.

She had been beaten up and was high on blow.

I raced out the door to be with her, but she was gone in her bright grey BMW. Even in the world of 1988, demons, witches and warlocks still inhabited the landscape. She had not been crying for me, but for her demon lover, of whom I somehow was now a part.

I stood there high on German exhaust, considering a badly remembered poem.

I had a mother and a father
Who I knew were mine.
I had perfect eyesight,
so I could see the imperfections of nature.
I had wisdom
that lay like an asp
at the bottom of the well

And when the unworthy prince came
I turned
and in all my beauty
Rejected him.


I stood there in the rain like some old Hemingway and realized that the asp in the bottom of the well was a guy richer, smarter and sexier than I was.

I couldn't blame Yuppies. I couldn't blame the drugs. I couldn't blame organized crime.

I could only blame myself, for I needn't have gone downtown for my answer.

I only needed to stay in Newmarket and pray in the rain.

--Ivan