Thursday, July 27, 2006

Nick Carroway and his Seed

How subtly the alcohol gets you, its diabolic process. You have made a new resolve to use your drinking as a reward for good work. You have to do some good work, put in some time writing, writing just for the sake of writing, writing anything at all, just as long as you will have prove to yourself that you weren't just sitting there gathering lint off your navel. Oh how you had loved Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, especially the narrator, Nick Carroway.

You are going to try to be Nick Carroway, but in more of a Henry Miller vein.

So you put in the time writing, writing, writing anything at all, though you have Nick Carroway in mind.

The demon knows, of course, that after a long spell of writing, you will be thirsty as hell. Maybe down a dozen.

"Being thirsty is a sign of health," whispers the Devil in your ear.

So you do something like automatic writing, putting in the time, half-remembered chapters from your own novels, half-remembered bar scenes of debauchery and sin--the good stuff. Nick Carroway might not have approved, but Henry Miller might.

Ratscrabble, ratscrabble, ratscrabble on the keyboard, but a sudden parallel universe comes up. It is partially out of your novel, THE FIRE IN BRADFORD, but the names are somehow changed.

I was lighting my cigarettes backwards. I had no idea how this present-day Julie Christie of the Twenties had even walked into my life and wondered why she seemed interested in me. I also wondered, as a veteran of not a few affairs, how many others had been pole-axed in the same way. She'd obviously been charming men for a long, long time, the blue eye shadow, the absolute blondiness, pint-size and everything about her fashioned, turned, just so. Sheer elegant femininity and you could bet the granny boots and paisley skirt that she wore that there were at least three other guys playing here beside old hubbber. Unnatural elfin beauty. A setup for loners and stoners.

The husband's name was Lief. Lief of the Wayne Gretzky look. Leif the Lucky. Or was he?

I balked at first when they poured me into their red pickup-truck, to be carted home with them. Drunk, I was babbling, "Thou shalt not covet they neighbour's wife, nor his goods, nor his ass." Leif seemed rather intrigued by this last reference to Immanuel Kant, a tricky montage of a name to the man who invented the philosophical term "a posteriori." I suspected Leif was something of a Dick Assman, though that famous person from Saskatchewan was guilty by nomenclature only. I know something of the ways of Riverdrive Park, near Bradford, some druggies and swinger there; likely my ass bobbing up and down while he watched from an attic peephole.

"Not his goods, nor his ass."

I did notice that Leif seemed to be attracted to both sexes, certainly the wife now comprising our threesome at the bar, Celia, but he seemed especially interested in me.. I had a vision of the immediate future. His beautiful wife mounted and Ivan's ass bobbing up and down. And Lief upstairs masturbating. Deja vu all over again.

Holland Landing suburbanites. Bullet Park. Bored. Jaded. They will do anything...

"Leif and I tried coke once, Celia buzzing in my ear.

And she kept talking of William Burrough's Naked Lunch, and i don't think she was discussing literature.

I was showing some signs of nervousness. I nervously swigged my beer.

"I've got something at home that will mellow you right out," from Celia.

Well, eventually we were in Leif's truck.

And all the while, Leif driving, my hand accidentally touching his right leg and Leif moving right into it.

"Kinda moved into that fast, Lief," I joked.

"Fast reflexes!" smiled Lief. Some bisexuals never confuse which days are for men and which for women.

To the right, I felt Celia's warm, soft thigh. But I felt bone too. Earlier in the evening, I had tried to physically pick her up, in the middle of a tango. I did all right, but for a five-foot two girl, she was heavy, unnaturally heavy, the kind of heaviness that is to be associated with people possessed.

I am still ratscrabbling away on this machine. I am actually avoiding real writing. I have really been contracted, given the green light anyway, to write a personal essay for the Globe and Mail. The deadline is about now. The mighty presses are poised. I am supposed to be writing something for FACTS AND ARGUMENTS.

I am poised.

And nothing. Much easiear to spin yarn for Rumpelstiltskin, my Devil of Alcohol.

So back to the story:

Enough that we somehow got to a neat white cottage in Holland Landing, that the husband unexpectedly retired rather suddenly, passed out in the bedroom (actually, they seemed to have a HIS and HERS) and Celia and I were left to ourselves in a shag-rugged Danish-style woody living room with its U-shaped chesterfield facing an immense picture window with the drapes not yet drawn.

And suddenly I became aware of how lonely I was, me the divorcee and frequent near-desperado from my subsequent live-ins, the man of many wives and master of none. It seemed I was suddenly curved up in a ball of loneliness, vulnerability, want. I just wanted her, anybody, anybody like her to hold me. "Just hold me," I was starting to keen.

Very deliberately, she put an open palm and extended her red nail-polished fingers right at the seat of where the trouble seemed to be. Maybe just a lonesome woman not sure of herself, or someone used to certain kinds of men--Johns?--or maybe this had to be a wham-bam-thank-you- ma'am, and that would be my fifteen minutes.

Hey, this is getting to be kind of fun. So much easier to replay the tapes of your novel. Journalism is chores. Journalism is detail, detail, detail. I liked it so much better in the way that I attempted fiction, Detail, Detail, Detail, climax. And then again, detail, detail, detail, mini-climax, and finally the real climax, certainly a realization in the reader.

What of the well-crafted story that they demand of you, over at the Globe, with not a word wasted, without a nuance out of place?

Ah, but that would be work. That would be professionalism.

So much easier to be the "creative writer."

Earlier, she had gone to the hi-fi to put on an LP and I noted she kept bending over to reveal a beautiful pear-shaped derriere she seemed rather anxious to display. What she a virgin, the wife of some Ruskin who was found year later to still possess her hymen after a lifetime of marriage? A lesbian? A lady of the night? Or maybe just a lonesome woman. A lonesome woman suddenly not sure of herself because of a husband's embroglios, or homosexuality, or extramarital affairs, or all of the above?

What attracted me to these strange manikins with the rouged cheeks, these mature women so often seen doing zany things in kids' shows, these vaguely English girl-women doing stupid things and talking funny?

It's a bit like watching the Tim Horton mascot in a parade. It's Timmy the Tidbit, of course, but those thin, black leotarded legs are sort of cute as they ran as in a Roadrunner and Coyote cartoon. You just wanted to grab this caricature, hug it.

Like I wanted to grab Celia.

Well. Just as I become intrigued with my own story, I somehow knock over my optical mouse on this computer. It is falling right atop my hard-cornered hard drive. Crash. My mouse has split into two, just as I was writing this.

Something left of the old mechanical ability though. I had certainly watched enough of that boring old fart, Red Green. I say some duct tape just behind my monitor. I pluck it forth.

What a thirsty god. He is directing all this.

What a horny bastard, the writer.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Our Lady of the Flowers


I'm not a flower guy.

No pansies in my window boxes.

But the carnations are beating about the steel railings looking for White Sports Coats.

Marty Robins on the brain. Hank Williams in the memory banks, especially on roses and teardrops.
I am a vegetable farmer, small scale,very small scale.Flowerpots and tubs on my balcony. Cucumbers tendrils chase me right into the kitchen. Red Runner beans are out ambushing the neighbour just above .
Heretofore a transplanted Ukrainian peasant (actually, we were landed folk) I found one day that I had portable roots and I might as well set them down somewhere, even if temporarily. Potatoes grow in huge tubs. Tomatoes hang down in festoons.

But here and there, a flower.

How does a frustrated vegetable gardener end up with flowers.
Well, one day I had a dollar to spend on tomato seedlings. It was late spring, and I found I could get two items for a dollar. I could have the tomato plants as long as I selected some half-grown carnations as well.
Carnations?
Me?
Carnations?

Well here they come, the little red bastards and they do so prettify my balcony boxes.

And daisies.
I dug up the little mothers myself, out of a junkyard meadow. Hardy little suckers. Bloom forever and keep the aphids off my carnations and beans.

I once taught creative writing to a group of athletes and policemen.
Amazing how they would write when it came to quaffing a daff:

"He went down on one knee to establish correct flower-sniffing position."
And:

"I thought the instructor was a communist, why else would he RCMP have me monitor this class. Not a communist, pretty good bourgeois, really."

"I am so gla you're not a communist, Ivan," says the lady plant from the Board of Directors at Seneca.

"Our Lady of the Flowers," said the Jean Genet fan, who all the while wanted to write short stories about virile young men eating big meals.

I suppose every creative writing class, like many a movie, has to have at least one gay athlete in it.
But then anybody who read Jean Genet was all right in my books too. Ever read the opening of "Our Lady of the Flowers"? Muddafukkah, that's some writin'

At about the time Seneca hired me, I'd been living on an acre of land in a one-and-a-half story farmhouse, growing beans and cucumbers and corn and cabbage, living the hippie dream to the hilt, so proud one day to have a dinner brought up entirely by my hands....All right, I cheated on the protein. Caught perch just off the front dock...I did intend to keep pigs just to proudly announce that I was a pig farmer at writers' conventions--that would get the conversation going, but my wife advised me against it. As for cows, we had them, or, more properly, my father-in-law had them 12 heifers, for the Great Canadian Dream stipulates that you need to raise heifers in order to be a proper hobby farmer.

How does a young fool get into a lifestyle like that?

Write, and write and write and write lots. Publish a lot, especially locally. Nobody reads the Globe or the Atlantic out in Ruralville, but they do read the local paper. Get enough articles in the local paper and the local aggie university will pick you up and next thing you know, you're teaching the shit.

But today, it was the first time I actually saw my own flowers coming up.

Aping my athlete writer friend, I "got down to flower-sniffing-position", but couldn't smell much. Newmarket air going foul , too many people in too small a town making the life of a flower somewhat tough. . Pretty flower, but no smell.

There is also the matter of the timorous, cowardly skunk on the lawn.

I mean, skunks are people too! He was here first. Where was he to go?

Ah, well. My intention had been to write about Hank Williams, a hundred songs in as many days most times for that tortured bard. Died at twenty-nine, after having written hundreds of songs, especially "Teardrop on a Rose, which can really turn on the waterworks for this old bum, who wrote for thirty years and really published so little.

But I can now grow flowers.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Look What They've Done to my Song

"Look what they've done to my song, Ma
Look what they've done to my song

"It was the only thing I could do half-right
And it's turning out all wrong, Ma
Look what they've done to my song."

--Melanie Safka

There was a time when I sincerely believed in literature, that it could instruct on social conduct, on ethics, that it could show the ways of God to man, that it had an aswer for the puzzle of existence.

The scientits had pretty well failed on their "theory of everything", their sole achievement, it seems, was crashing isotopes of plutonium into U-235 for one hell of a big bang to knock out little yellow men. Now "the little yellow men" own the scientists as America goes deeper and deeper into debt with Japan. The foo is on the other shoot.
I wrote an entire novel on a scientist on a quest for the Theory of Everything and what he ended up with was the Old Testament. Science and the Bible are the same? Well, you can read my HAT PEOPLE above and determine for yourself. If science knew sin with the dropping of the atomic bomb on a civilian population, my hero, Kevin Logan also knew sin when he tampered with a serious commandment. Adultery kills, kills the soul but no one in this day and age will tell you.

So you give up everything to write your novel, your song.

The quest takes twenty years, the loss of your career, your family, your home, your money.

Classic example of a crazy person's behaviour, no?

"But all writers are dickheads," said my friend at the homeless shelter. "They are monomanics, they keep doing this one thing over and over again.
"That," said the genius bum, "is what Einstein was saying." "If you do something over and over again with the same results, you are crazy.'"

Well, crazy yeah, but maybe a little like a fox. They did notice your book. You got some money for it, but scant circulation. You have also reached some young people who could identify with a book where two people had had just enough of each other and nobody wanted to be the bad guy. The Big Split....A little like atomic physics?

I wrote my book, and it was somehow split.

What had the small,crummy publishers done to my book?

I had it published on the cheap and what came out was a mess of mis-set lines, millions of typos--a total mess.

Had to reprint, on my own hook. There were now two books, two versitons, one dirty and one clean. Finally I got some good reviews in the local press and in Ottawa.
Well, it was done at last. Reprinted on the web too, by my good friend Aaron Braaten over at http://www.grandinite.com. Reprinted here, just above, on the masthead of my blog, if you will look up.

"A fine novel," said my agent. But he did send it back because there were still some technical glitches in the manuscript.
What had they done to my song?

Well, maybe the author himself was the culprit.

He had written the story for therapy, at a time when he was going mad with grief and sorrow, wrote it close to the bone, had possibly hurt a few people he perceived hurting him. The Devil plays the best music and this was one Hell of a song.
Fishing in forbidden streams, hunting unicorns in the brambles...anything at all to keep up ones optimism without the palliatives of cigarettes and booze, both of which blank out the zero-feeling when you are left alone; you just hadn't faced the problem.

But the mountain was not very pretty, quite ugly in fact, and why stare hypnotically at the mountain, why die when your really want to live, to be in the state of grace, to be yourself. Why keep attacking those people, to be defeated again and again, to have all your hopes, dreams, schemes thwarted every time and always ending up on Square One?

Well, somettimes you have to pit your entire being up against it. All of you, all your strength, all your soul.
It will take twenty years, but if you force against something for twenty years, it will eventually move.

It did.

There is a kind of triumph in getting a book out. The whole town will know about it.
You walk out into the street, and everyone is greeting you.

But my book, in part, was about people's motives.
What are my greeter's' motives?

To find my secret so it can become their secret, the secret wellsprings of success?

Should have told them the publishers can really mangle your book and it takes a very long time to set things right.

There are a lot of peple who can mangle your life and it talkes a long time to set things right.

Look What They've Done to my Song

"Look what they've done to my song, Ma
Look what they've done to my song

"It was the only thing I could do half-right
And it's turning out all wrong, Ma
Look what they've done to my song."

--Melanie Safka

There was a time when I sincerely believed in literature, that it could instruct on social conduct, on ethics, that it could show the ways of God to man, that it had an aswer for the puzzle of existence.

The scientits had pretty well failed on their "theory of everything", their sole achievement, it seems, was crashing isotopes of plutonium into U-235 for one hell of a big bang to knock out little yellow men. Now "the little yellow men" own the scientists as America goes deeper and deeper into debt with Japan. The foo is on the other shoot.
I wrote an entire novel on a scientist on a quest for the Theory of Everything and what he ended up with was the Old Testament. Science and the Bible are the same? Well, you can read my HAT PEOPLE above and determine for yourself. If science knew sin with the dropping of the atomic bomb on a civilian population, my hero, Kevin Logan also knew sin when he tampered with a serious commandment. Adultery kills, kills the soul but no one in this day and age will tell you.

So you give up everything to write your novel, your song.

The quest takes twenty years, the loss of your career, your family, your home, your money.

Classic example of a crazy person's behaviour, no?

"But all writers are dickheads," said my friend at the homeless shelter. "They are monomanics, they keep doing this one thing over and over again.
"That," said the genius bum, "is what Einstein was saying." "If you do something over and over again with the same results, you are crazy.'"

Well, crazy yeah, but maybe a little like a fox. They did notice your book. You got some money for it, but scant circulation. You have also reached some young people who could identify with a book where two people had had just enough of each other and nobody wanted to be the bad guy. The Big Split....A little like atomic physics?

I wrote my book, and it was somehow split.

What had the small,crummy publishers done to my book?

I had it published on the cheap and what came out was a mess of mis-set lines, millions of typos--a total mess.

Had to reprint, on my own hook. There were now two books, two versitons, one dirty and one clean. Finally I got some good reviews in the local press and in Ottawa.
Well, it was done at last. Reprinted on the web too, by my good friend Aaron Braaten over at http://www.grandinite.com. Reprinted here, just above, on the masthead of my blog, if you will look up.

"A fine novel," said my agent. But he did send it back because there were still some technical glitches in the manuscript.
What had they done to my song?

Well, maybe the author himself was the culprit.

He had written the story for therapy, at a time when he was going mad with grief and sorrow, wrote it close to the bone, had possibly hurt a few people he perceived hurting him. The Devil plays the best music and this was one Hell of a song.
Fishing in forbidden streams, hunting unicorns in the brambles...anything at all to keep up ones optimism without the palliatives of cigarettes and booze, both of which blank out the zero-feeling when you are left alone; you just hadn't faced the problem.

But the mountain was not very pretty, quite ugly in fact, and why stare hypnotically at the mountain, why die when your really want to live, to be in the state of grace, to be yourself. Why keep attacking those people, to be defeated again and again, to have all your hopes, dreams, schemes thwarted every time and always ending up on Square One?

Well, somettimes you have to pit your entire being up against it. All of you, all your strength, all your soul.
It will take twenty years, but if you force against something for twenty years, it will eventually move.

It did.

There is a kind of triumph in getting a book out. The whole town will know about it.
You walk out into the street, and everyone is greeting you.

But my book, in part, was about people's motives.
What are my greeter's' motives?

To find my secret so it can become their secret, the secret wellsprings of success?

Should have told them the publishers can really mangle your book and it takes a very long time to set things right.

There are a lot of peple who can mangle your life and it talkes a long time to set things right.

Friday, July 21, 2006






Image

Borges and I

The great Jorge Luis Borges usually begins thusly:

"As everybody knows, the Fourteenth Caliph of Malabar, Akbar III, was greatly distressed upon finding on the road to Khartoum, a certain spiritual desolation. "It has been forteeen days since I have purified myself with dung. My enemy has entrapped me in a labyrinth, and it is only through prayer that my god can help me."

I am parodying the master, of course, but how deftly can the late Mr. Borges describe some labyrinth we find ourselves in.

Well, in Mexico, finding myself in a labyrinth partly set up by an increasingly rebellious wife and her lover, I went to purify myself not in a dungheap, but a hot spring. The hot springs of Tabuada.

I had been warned about the Mexican quest. This was no journey through Hindustan, nor a fabulous allegory of
Borges.
I met in Mexico a man who claimed he swatted flies once for Howard Hughes. I wondered about his advice, as the lawyers for Hughes proved him a liar. Here is what he told me:

"There are only two choices for you here in Mexico, this apparently sleepy but dangerous country: A woman or a bottle."

I took both.

She was lying face down on her terrycloth towel, a breeze toying with her fine blonde hair. I reached out to stroke that hair, so spanking clean and the woman turned to face me with her full pale blue eyes, wide apart and a little crazy, the high California cheekbones and a mouth as wide and pretty as an idyll's.

We were lying in the grass before a Mexican spa, one of a dozen in the central plateau, the hot springs of Tabuada, lush and tropical in a benign late- February sun.
Before us steamed a pool, hot as a bathtub, fat old tourists squatting therein like latterday versions of souls being cleansedin Dante's purgatory.

What a far cry this was from frosty Canada, from the sense of hopelessness and death the comes every February, when nothing seems to break the gloom, the threatening darkness, the pallor of one's skin. Canadians are more like Finns and Norwegians, not at all in temperament like the "slow Americans" that someone labelled them.

Like the Finn, the Canadian drinks to excess in the course of a long and oppressive winter; he entertains gloomy and destructive thoughts on the worst of the snowy or slushy days, building up a slow, smoldering resentment agains on's wife, one's children, one's dog.

I hope I didn't come to Mexico just to escape winters, I was thinking, my close study of Borgesian texts not meaning very much at all. How I had longed to be a Borges scholar, Borges, who can say more in a paragaph than a whole novel, doing this as if the novel already existed and he was making brief commentaries.

"I love you," I am saying to the bikini-clad long-legged, slightly knockneed but pert form lying beside me, and I play with her hair. I am, I know, perhaps the thirtieth lover. Times change. This is not the Fifties, where an entire generation seems to have spent its life in a penal colony.

But tonight there will be this new me, this Pierry Trudeau, getting his blowjob from Margaret, as the CBC so artistically portrayed in a Trudeau documentary aired just yesterday. Who cared who had come before me, and who will come after me. Sanity right now was balance, and balance was a woman. And later that evening, there would be the bottle.

I felt myself still in a labyrith though, and it would be quite some time before I got out.

"Go home, go home to L, said Clifford Irving.

Yet the labyrinth was so intricate that I found myself dreaming of rooms within rooms, dreams of the past, dreams of the future where entire families of gorgons wanted to stare me into dry ice.

It was not until I got back to Canada, recovering in a place that had all the warmth and security of a madhouse, that I would have to fashion a straight labyrinth, the deadliest kind to wreak upon my enemy.

Not for nothing was Akbar mentioned by Borges.
Not for nothing did I have to purify myself with...dung.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The White rat looking for Hank Williams

"The rat will urinate and defecate while searching for the right path through the maze."

I only drew 64 per cent in psychology, but I think I understand some of the principles.

I am trying to get through the intricacies of putting up pictures while at the same time conflicted with the right side of my brain, that is to say, the theatre side, which sort of tries to take in everything while you are focused on the specific and the immediate.

The right side seems to want to write, knowing for sure that fiction is about relationships and nonfiction about fact, but you are not sure of the facts in your relationship with your techie.

And the friggin' left side is totally begaffled by Blogger, you not knowing whether it's Blogger or you--you can't get the mother-loving pictures up!

So fuck it.

I will begin a blog.

It is for sure that this rat is urinating and defecating while going through the mazes of Blogger.

We would rather do anything else but think. Really.

After a few million words, so-called "creative expression" is easy--too easy and we'd rather go that way than any other, the verbal way. So you build up this specific vocabulary of some ten thousand words and use those words for all of your thinking. The left, analytic side is almost gone. This was painfully brought home to me when I was forced to teach math at Seneca College and found I couldn't distinguish calculus from cabbageheads. Among other things, I had totally forgotten that you add powers in algebra, there is a shorthand; I had to go right back to the book.
This, of course, had consequences. "We know you limitaions," said the faculty head.

Ah, how easy it is to be the facile poet while knowing dick about algebra and space.

Oh, what the hell. I have this machine now. Boolean algebra, all the ways in which a human being can think, said the very late George Boole. This is illuminating and also scary as hell.
You mean, that as a rat caught in your digital maze, you can determine all the possible ways in which I can think?

I am streetwise. This is the way a jailbird homo operates. "I have the keys. You are my bitch."

I am Mr. Boole's bitch. Boolen algebra. How smart Mr. Gates must have been. How instightful to use the mirror, the window to cut through so much of the digital crap.

I am still urinating and defecating as I go from stone luddite to blogger.

My techie used to do it all for me, but now, as my blog is visited by some fairly well-known people, he is loath to do my manipulative hackwork for me. The artistic decisions and, increasigly, the technical execution should be mine.

How cool it had been to give the impression of great versatility--greatly enhanced by my technical help--and now reduced to Dingwall Dimbulb as my limitations seem right out there.

Lord how we love to spin our wheels before we actually get the driver's licence.

Speaking of licences, I once trained as a pilot. In the course of my first solo, I found myself
singing, Jambolaya Crawfish Pie Filet Gumbo, a zippy Hank Williams tune at the time.
I forsook the joys of Chery-Mio just to learn how to fly. Awkward with girls, alienating myself from my fellow pilot trainees with my garlic pickles and other goodies making up my EQ, or
Ethnic Quotient. My poor instructor. I must have given him quite a bouquet of Ukraine's national flower.
Ah, well, as you may deduce, I am ratscrabbling here just to see if I'm making any headway with blogger at all as I fly solo.
Ah, how smart we would like to be.
And how awfully pedestrian we really are.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Path of Skulls

Forty is a time to lose your adolescent self, but we don't.

Especially we men.

Oh lord we don't.

So what if your wife is pregnant for the third time, so what if your son is challenging you to foot races, so what
if the people at work seem like droids, devoid even of common sense as they compete so fiercely for a management position that could have been filled by a chimp.

You want to get out to feel wonderful again, to be wonderful again, to be the athlete, to have any number of beautiful lovers, yeah, to be the cock of the walk you seemed to be just scant years ago.

.First line of George Orwell's Coming Up for Air:

Marriage to the joyless Hilda was becoming a nightmare for George Bowling.

You feel that you are George Bowling, and you don't even bowl, but that is certainly what it feels like to you, George Bowling, golfer, respectable citizen, DagwoodBumstead , a little bit afraid of Blondie who is also nearing forty and is for the first time discovering that she is not all that happy in this domestic crapcan either. She too, might be scrambling throught the Yellow Pages looking for Dr. Kavorkian.

Is this all there is?

Marriage and I was not ready.

First child and I was not ready.

Second child and I was not ready.

Stress job at the college and I was not ready.

Wife knocked up again, and I sure as hell am not ready.


Where the hell are the three beautiful novels about Toronto when Toronto was so fine?

You gave up three beautiful novels about Toronto to teach students how to parse sentences.

Well, at least you felt useful. Poor students were largely idiots, the products of "open concept" learning, a cop-out if there ever was one, of letting the Alpha kids run things while you smoked in the faculty room.

You had met the head of the department, who would communicate by video and pride himself in not being "a grammarian."

Well what the f*ck are you doing as head of the English department? And where's your sheepskin? Sneaked into community college teaching after having been an announcer for a Montreal radie station now defunct. Sir Geroge Williams university for a semester, and you screwed that up too; those who can't, teach; those who can't teach, administrate.

You see the youngish colleagues around you and they are all the same way, a restlessness, a questioning of everything, a doubting of everything. "I know I want something, need something, but I don't know what the hell I want."

Garden variety mid-life crisis.

This is the time to pull ahead of the pack, this is the time to make you statement, this is the time to write that goddanm novel. You gotta do it by forty.

If you don't you never will.

Oh sure, there will be the palliatives, the little article in the local paper here and there. But the Big Book,she is not writ. Youngsters all around you cutting huge furrows, while you stuggle with the jubjunctive and the indicative.

"Take a sabbatical," says the Dean. "Fuck you," you mutter to yourself.

But you do take the sabbatical.

You behave foolishly.

You come back with an unfinished novel, even though the mighty presses are poised to roll at your command. The college has all the offset equipment and a huge budget. It was understood that you, as a star in the English department, was going to produce something fine. they had agreed to print your nevel on your name alone.

"Give us the book."

But there is no book, merely a first draft.

And you'd picked up a dose in Mexico.

You fuddle. You fudge.

Your wife wants to divorce you.
You can't concentrate on your teaching. You are not tenured, so everyone is watching you. The evaluations come in. Not doing such a hot job.
And there is someone new sitting at your desk now.

You start all the way down at the bottom again.

Rumpelstiltskin.

The students are still there, under the Chesnut tree, some even giving you applause as you pass, you had been a pretty good prof, but you are starting to know sin as not just an abstract. The teaching nuns were right. You've lost the strength of a hundred men because your heart is no longer pure.

Everybody in the world is after you immortal soul and some woman has got it.She is not your wife.

You thought you had pain before, but this time it's triple. It's not ennui, not boredom. You are about to lose everything you had.

And you do.

Lost the old tenure.

Losing wife and family.

Isn't forty a shit-kicker?

"It gets better on the other side," says Jung.

"Where? When?

And then it suddenly become clear to you.

You somehow sell your book.

It is published before you hardly know it.


Back on the street again. Back on Boogie Street.

"I am an artist, Martha," you say to your wife.

"Oh yeah? Here is the vacuum, artist. Get busy. What were you doing galavanting areoud Mexico thesel eight months while I took care of the childen?"

Alanis Morisette is on the radio: "I am here. To remind you of the mess you made when you walked out the door..."

"What is your problem, you ask the wife.

"You," she says.

Briefing for a descent into hell.

And only a year ago, you thought you were in a nightmare.


Hank Williams died at twenty-nine, after achieving seventy years' worth of any singer's normal career.

A false goodbye, a life is shattered.
There lies the story on the rose.

And Hank Williams did it all in his twenties.

Gone by 29.

What is the message here?

That you had somehow escaped the path of skulls?

-30-

Sunday, July 09, 2006

False starts (From my yellow pads)

My entire left side is seized up, my lungs are full of cigarette smoke, my libido is twisted from the soft-core movie, my social skills are gone (were they ever there--I once asked Wallace Stegner, head of Stanford's creative writing program who the hell he thought he was) and I have become a thoughtful masturbator.

You get all this from blogging?

Probably not. You've been this way for quite some time.

I once bragged to my estranged wife that I was going to run for mayor of Newmarket here and she said, "Don't bother. You always say the wrong thing."

A little shy in the social skills department.

Or, at least, that's what Miss K thought.

Looks like I've got something in common with the late Saul Bellow, perhaps the only thing in common.

Him With His Foot In His Mouth.

Ryerson Polytechnical Institute spoiled me.

There had been the misapplied attitude in our Ontario in the Sixties that the student was a unique and creative individual, that there had to be a new respect for the kook, that it was the kook, the Frank Zappa, that really knew anything.

So at Ryerson in those days--for those in Journalism or Radio-TV arts anyway--the kook reigned supreme, epecially if he was publishing like mad or involved in theatre and TV, directing stuff early, being precocious.

I went on to graduate school, was surprised there were people younger and better than me there, like guitarist Liona Boyd, and as far as she was concerned, I was just another journo who also played guitar, but "howled like an animal."

Actually, Liona went on the be a quitar superstar. Me, I just hacked.

But how nice it was to hang with Liona, miniskirt hiked up, playing her Goya, a damsel with a dulcimer, and if I didn't want to throw in the towel about my own playing, at least I'd tuck a towel up under her guitar while she played. I was married at the time and her thighs were driving me crazy.

Liona eventually wrote a book about San Miguel de Allende, the wonderful artist's colony where we studied.

Some ago, I met her father. "What happened with your own bookd?"

"I um, sort of published it."

"It's out. That's the main thing, It's out." Good old John Boyd, always the positive thinker, the educator.

Appreciated kooks like me.

Some educator he must have been; look what became of Liona. Successful. Married rich. Lives in LA.

Well, at least my book was getting some reviews. John must have read them. I didn't feel like a total failure.


I had privately my Black Icon and the reviewers were all over it.

I was twenty-nine years old.

And yet the foot-in-mouth thing.

CBC International Service had just finished interviewing me and an editor at the Toronto SUN wanted to have me on staff.

It was probably my drinking that wa making me so short with people. and I said something like, "Fuck off. The SUN is a rag.

"Oh you dirty bugger," from the editor.

They really should have finishing schools for brash kids getting into the back door of a new university, steeped in the idea the each student in arts was somehow a unique and creative individual.


I found myself half believing it.


But the publishing venues of that place! All the top people in publishing and and journalism were there as profs. You had access to the Globe and Mail, the newspaper that makes or breaks Canadian writer a writer; you had access to Robert Fulford the Star critic whose good word was the key to success, and to Robert Weaver the Grand Imprimatur of Canadian publishing.

I managed to alienate all of them.

So I took a job at the Oakville Beaver (God help us!), wrote what I pleased and still managed to get some critical acclaim, at least in Ontario. Then the Reader's Digest reprinted something of mine and it seemed to me that I was in.
I mean, doesn't everybody?

All of this by thirty.

But ah, thirty, that borderline beween youth and maturity, Catch 30, as Gail Sheehy had put it.

Things started to get wonky.

I felt I had to write another novel, this one exposing the ills of Canadian society, its Masonic makeup, the possibility that the country was an historical abortion, wrestled over by the English and French so much that it was a Push me-Pull You place where no one had any real idea of what it was to be a Canadian, especially Ontario Canadians, whose sense of identity was sort of along the lines of WTF!

So, I chucked it all to write the Great Canadian Novel.

Omigod. The cold aparment, nothing to eat for the kids, the cashing in of beerbottles. Spam and Klik lunches.

And once the book was done, rejection.

"You fucked up baby," from the wife.

"Didn't I though?"

Ah, back to the journalistic vineyards, the Star Weekly and after quitting that, again the Oakville Beaver.

I ended up working for a provincial magazine in Bradford, Ontario out of which I soon got an award or two, published my novel in serial form, was unexpectedly hired as a college professor and life got to be good.

Too good.

I wanted to jump up and grab my own tail.

I was becoming insufferable. My wife started to take night school classes, got involved with her prof and it was only a matter of time before I would be just Dagwood Bumstead.

The foot-in-mouth thing.

I kept putting my wife down because she didn't have a B. A.

Well, she soon made a Burro's Ass out of me.

Ah, off to San Miguel Allende again, looking for that long-lost shaker of salt, Marguaritaville, the hotel room, the typewriter, graduate school all over again, the quest for the Fountain of Youth.

And one smashing girl friend.

I came back with an advanced degree and a novel.

Probably won too resoundingly. My ex and I had this competition thing going--and was soon doing the Irene Goodlnight thing, for "me and my wife were parted."

Lesson learned: Don't be a smart-ass. Especially towards your wife, who footed to many of the bills while you were being the great Creative Artist. And then you do this Henry Miller thing.

Well, I'm over the hill (hell?) now.

There is nothing more to learn.

What is the point of having seen it all when you can hardly get it up--for anything.

Font of my passion become my waterspout. Pornies on Saturday Night.

Saturday Night Live.

Saturday Nigh Dead.

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

I see the R. J. Baker has put up a lithograph up on his blog. William Blake. . They are stoning the guy in the woodcut.

I guess in another society, I would be the guy they would have stoned, but I think I was more like Felix the Cat, thrown out by his wife.

Felix the Cat to somebody he meets in the underworld:

"You do some really weird shit, man."

I do some really weird shit.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

How to get back the one you love

How to get back the one you love.

Now there's a topic for you.

The stuff of a hundred novel plots, the deep-down yearnings for all of us, who had lost at love, the missing element in Shakespeare's plays, the Moby Dick thing once we are thwarted and want to fly into the face of God Himself.

How to get back the one you love.

Nice work if you can get it.

Are you taking this bit of filligree seriously?

I should like to say straight off that you can't get back the one you love right now, right at this moment; you just can't get there from here.

Things take time. Relationships change from minute to minute, and what you may have right now is not a need for some secret love potion, but very possibly a life-cleaner.

And yet it's still How do you get back the one you love?

The daisy-plucking thing.

She loves me not.

The best-seller thing if anybody truly finds a foolproof way to win back a lost love.

Why do we do it, we who like people on crack, think the other is god, is absolutely essential to our wellbeing, without whom we would simply die, for whom we would die.

They have it all over us.

"Hit me," says the masochist.

"No," says the sadist.

"Every since my masochistic baby left me, I've got nothing to beat but the wall," a singer named Doug Brown once penned.

So it is possible the other person misses you too. If only to have a whack at you.

But you can't phone him/her right now.

"I don't know what it is, but it ain't love," a blues singer observes in an uncharacteristic blues song.

You've got a condition.

Mandala:

Love-itis got a hold on me.

Romanticism. Always hearing more than the band is playing.

Lovesickness.

Shakespeare: Fill thy purse with money!

Once astray, a woman is insatiable, even unto the gates of Hell.

And the same for us satyrs?

Maybe we need a life-cleaner?

Fill thy purse with money. " Lay off that whiskey, leave that cocaine alone?" Certainly the song of Hank Williams III.

Funny about that, he only sang that song once on TV.

But he had something there.

No other society allows the excesses that our own does.

With your purse full of money you can do damn near anything you please. You might be able to get back the one you love if only it is for her/his golddigging. You have the power to off someone.

But you can lose that power overnight. No money, no job; you'll soon be trying to get back the one you love.

"No money, no funny," says the old Ukrainian immigrant in Manitoba.

"Fill thy purse with money," reiterates the wise Shakepeare.

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

Okay, okay. Enough of being cute.

You can get back the person so recently out of your field of vision.

You will not be able to do it right away. You will need to use time, and passion and power.

It can be done.

What strange love is this Bitter wormwood in her kiss. Stare her down, old man!

Don't know what the female equivalent is, but it's something like that.

And once a female has you by the balls, you will surely follow.

But is the game worth the candle?

I have personally followed a woman for twenty years, wrote a book about her, caused her to abandon her lover won the game, but have felt like Rumpelstiltskin all the same.

And the worst of it is I didn't even go over to claim my prize.

We get right up to what we really want and then, inexplicably, turn away.

Georgie- Porgie.

There is an in-depth Freudian analysis of neurotic Porgie in an old issue of Esquire, Porgie's infantile yarning for the mother, his oral-anal fixations, his need for rejection, all that explained, tongue-in-cheek, to the point of high hysteria.

The hell of Freud, is that he is right most of the time, even though he had to go to Hell itself to find the key.

And for him too, it was "Lay off that whiskey/Leave that cocaine alone."

Freud too, needed a life-cleaner.

Stop riffing your sister-in-law, Sigmund. You are scaring the cats.

I once proposed to do a column titled A Redneck's Relationship Guide.

You all blue 'cause she won't have you?
You got a problem, cousin.
Somebody's dick is in the way.

Never mind. In north Korea, they just launched a rocket called Big Dong.

It failed the first time, but by the second and third time, it showed itself capable of hitting Hollywood.

You are capable of hitting Hollywood.

But will you still want Nicole Kidman once you have her in the clear?

OH SHIT. I'VE STARTED TO BLOG AGAIN

Monday, July 03, 2006

Blogging myself into a corner

The way out seems fairly simple.
You'd done it before.
Stuck in blogland while real writers around you are digging huge furrows in real work printed in real publications, some worldwide.
Well, how did you do it last time?
Let's see.
Every aristocrat (and face it, we writers are all little elitists) has to face danger, some life-threatenimg situation, be it destroying your support system just to see what will happen or to compete on the backs of large dangerous animals to win some dumb prize, the pursuit of which may leave you maimed and maybe even crippled. Or stupid Fear Factor, or my favourites, American Idol and Canadian Idol.
For all of our scientific advances, it's still Swords and Sorcery, the quest, the Golden Grail.
You have failed because you chose to blog and not to flog.
A stupid cartoon comes to mind. It is a slightly ruffled chicken, whose talk balloon asks, "Do people get laid?"
And the answer comes, "No, people are chicken."
So I for one, need to get "laid."
How do you go about getting laid?
Well, like any incestuous cad, I used to be something of a success at writing and hardly needed to announce in my column that the scribbler was riddled with mental blocks, family anxieties, creeping impotence and bankruptcy--and really needed to get laid. There would be volunteers. That's what it was like to have artistic power, back in the days when you were young and a superstar.
It was also being a rat with women.
"You expect people to be nice to you when you are not nice to them at all."
I used to walk the halls of academe to see how the upwardly mobile young turks would handle women teachers.
"Kiss my ass."
"But I already have."

F*cking asshole.
And I along with him, probably. Egomaniac teacher. Manipulating students. Drug habit. &%#ing prick.

Ah, but one day it all comes back on you. Some smart redhead who finally gets some scissors and does a real Samson number on you. "I have discovered the secret of your strength."

Well. Now you have to pay for all those superioritities. You have been rejected once again by a publication that you not only respect, but one that could restore your superstar status.
Nice work if you can get it.
It can be gotten through journalism, high -end journalism, the slick magazines. Also theatre, though you had to have known something about theatre from an early age.

But the distance between two points is not a straight line.

Writing is a little like trying to win a woman who doesn't want you, the "bitch" who will screw for anybody else but you, that's why you call it, her, a bitch. Norman Mailer: The novel is The Great Bitch.

So what do you do when you are really out of the loop, no longer in? And not making any headway at all with The Great Bitch?

For god's sake,don't go to the stories of sports heroes, the low-batting average slugger, who through sheer determination and character, finally drives one out of the park.
Doesn't happen that way. My old hero Dave Carter
used to drive one out of the park fairly routinely. And tomorrow, he would do it again. And again Wednesday.

So it's not the shy hero, Archibald Arbuthnott, the stuttering guy with the incongruous last name, who finally gets the gumption up to play Cricket and beat everybody-- oh, lord, no! You can have all the determination in the world, all the literature and fail miserably, because the hero's life is not the way they tell you it is. There is the way people actually work, and then, with Einstein, there is "literarute", or bullshit.

Still, you are in a gumption trap, a box. A writer who is not publishing, not really publising.

The best way is to plan for failure, to have a system, and if one thing doesn't work, you go to plan for Plan B, or C, or D, and almost infinitum. Even a loser sometimes wins.

The problem right now is that you have chosen "creativity" over using your brains. You have been thinking outside the box so long that it has become a Pandora's box and you can't get the genie back in.

You had a possible four-thosand dollar grant from a major university and you fucked up the forms.

PhD's don't fuck up. You did.

So you compensate by "creative expression."

You thinking has to become practical.

The goal is slick magazine serialization of your novel, leading to hardcover publication an old goal; things aren't done that way any more, but it is nevertheless the goal.

So how are you going to do it?

Get the hell out of blogging for a while.

Bring it all home.
On yellow pads.
Yellow pads.
Or on that old Remington electric,where you can produce real copy and not the filigree of electronic stuff like this.

Yellow pads.

Then you'll start writin', and not "typin'", as Truman Capote might have said.

And out of five drafts, you may be able to rescue one.

And that might be enough.

Dollar-thirty-five for the stamp.

And if rejected, turn the whole thing into a TV scpript or a play, better the play.

Your local theatre group is starving for material. The market is right in front of you.

You were just too busy blogging to notice.


...........And after all that piss and vinegar, Happy Fourth of July weekend to our American friends.
What I've set down above may give the impression of a guy being bummed out, but I have never been bummed out by an American, one-on-one.
It was Americans who offered me a scholarship for my first book.
Hope you're out there, Tom Mayer and may your "Bubblegum and Kipling" keep ballooning.