Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Ice Man Cometh


That life is rejection, failure, pain--is hardly news to the writer.

"I don't know what you're talking about, " says my established friend at The Star. "These things are only felt by marginal employees."

So we, who somehow ended up back in the boonies, are we the "marginal employees" of the publishing houses?
Hell, half the time we can't even get in the door.

Says John Braine, a good past friend of our wonderful Mordecai Richler, who turned old-fart stories into high epics:
"Once the biggest publishing house in the country rejects you, why, you have failed. There is nothing you can do.
Of all things, this is the most difficult."
But what if you are rejected ahead of time. Like not only is lip service given to "the selection process", but full service! There's only room for three or four top writers.First novels are not taken.

Counters Dennis Lee, a lovable Canadian poet. "It is impossible to be published in Canada as a novice.
"You can only do it the way I did it: Start your own publishing company."

Dennis Lee went on to great things as a poet laureate and a teacher of writing.

Hm.

Myself, I have a system.

I was making terrible headway with the large newspapers and magazines. I was in some sort of maze.

I picked up from an old British series, "The Avengers" the notion that if somebody has placed you in a labyrinth,
You have to inflict pain on yourself so you won't mind the labyrinth, and if you keep your right hand along a wall, you will eventually get out.

So I became homeless and lived in a car.

People kept calling on me while I was out dumpster diving and complained I was never :"home".

I made some queries with the Globe & Mail and found there were up to 600 submissions a week for Facts & Arguments, the personal essay page. I went really high class and checked out Atlantic Monthly: One hundred thousand submissions, perfectly edited, each year. So they print 12?

So how do you fight odds like that?

Do the masochist tango. Works for me.

Also: Write good.

"I have to read so much dreck," complains editor Moira Dann at the Globe.

Around the time I was writing something for Globe, I was more or less taken aboard by the House of Anansi on my novel, Light Over Newmarket.

Unfortunately, I was so broke I hit up the editor, whom I didn't know very well, for a $20.loan.

He told me to *&^*-off. "We are not such good friends." The whole deal was scotched.

Then he sent me to an agent who was nonexistent. And I heard him say to the company accountant, "I don't know about Ivan. He doesn't seem to have any luck. Maybe his name is against him."


Ever get that empty feeling, Bunky?

Bastardos!. Madrechingados!

I took ten thousand dollars and published every damn thing I ever wrote.The reviews were magnificent.

A local journalist lost his job over praising me, but he got it in and I could finally eat.

Canada's top reviewer wrote in to explain: "No, no, I didn't damn your work. I just haven't read too much of it."
Then everybody chimed in to call him an asshole, just on general principles and his work over at the National Post.I wrote into the Toronto Star, where they were slagging him, and said, "Hey, this guy's not so bad. And as for writing ability, the man can really do it. I read his autobiography, and it was really fine!"
..............

Recently, I passed my old matrimonial home, a nice two-an-a-half Victorian monstrosity that even boasted its own ghost.
Halloween!--Have to get something in!

I ran away from home so I could be the great writer.

Turned out to be the greatest sexual acrobat in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

What was that all about?

Ah, old Caravaggio, just after the Renaissance: "You would rather do anything than sculpt, engineer or paint.
It's buggery, liquor, dissipation that you really want."
Fyodor Dostoevsky echoes this.

Well, I'm not into buggery--pain in the ass!--but how I love women!

I blame it on a negative gene.

"You are full of negative qualities," my third-last dutchess said.

But she was back on the phone when my book came out. And especially when I got this huge spread in the Star.

Anyway, the system I've got: While I am not unaware of the Newfounland admonishment (Newfies are a lot like Oakies) "if at first you don't succeed give up, no use making a fool of yourself", I usually try five or six different ways to get the project overground and into cold print.

1) Turn your story into something that looks like an editorial and flog it to the local press;

2) If rejected from paid editorial writing, turn your story into a letter to the editor. This really works. Trust me.

3) Find a magazine that hires burned-out fiction writers. These exist. Trust me again. I have made hundreds of thousands of dollars over forty years by joining outfits like the old Star Weekly;

4) Become a character. Run for public office. Hell, it worked for Norman Mailer.

5) Turn your novel into a play. Hm. This is hard to do. A playwright is very high on the literary food chain.
This is whre I may lead you (and even myself?) astray, for here comes Act III, Scene III of THE FIRE IN BRADFORD.

ACT III Scene 3

Scene: The professor and Celia are in her pert blue yuppie mustang of l973 vintage. The professor is driving.

Narrator's voiceover:

I knew thing had gone some distance and the husband, Lief, wasn't the stupidest person in the world. There would have to be a climax, but it didn't come the way I'd expected it. She had said over the telephone that she wanted me over for dinner. I assumed, over ou rdrinks at the Granada, that Lief would be there too, that this was the denoement, the long-abiding stranger in the house being invited to--who knows--a hanging.
No, I had said at first. But she kept at it and at it. So I had said to myself, faint heart never made it...

Business: There is something wrong with the car. It dies on the road to Bradford. The professor and Celia are stalled.

Celia: What are we going to do? This is turning our really odd.

Professor. Damn. Baroque night. And it's only started. Something's out to get us.

Celia: "Hey, that red truck. That's Horse's truck. You know, the son of your pal Deighton.

Professor: (quickly leaping out the driver's side): Hey Horse! Horse!

Business: Young Horse, a huge teenager comes in from Stage Right. The professor already has the Mustang's hood up. Horse is walking towards the car.

Horse: Problems?.

Professor. Yeah. Big time. Car won't go and we have to be somewhere.

Horse: I'll have a look.

Professor: Great. Your dad tells me you're a whiz at mechanics.

Horse: Don't know if I'lm a whiz, but let's see. We might get lucky.

Business: Horse is peering inside the hood.

Horse: Oh -oh. Deteriorated distributor cap. LIke papier-mache.

Professor: Crap.

Horse: Just a second. I think I have some duct tape in the truck.

Celia: There's some in the glove compartment. (She steps out of the car) Here

Horse (Deftly applying the tape) This is good for ten miles folks. Best I can do. You need to replace that cap.

And they are off.

Only to stop again.

Again, they are out of the car, looking for anyone.

Profesor. We are lucky; we are unlucky. Look! A Mazda shuttle car! I recognize the driver. It's Dave Mazdakowski himself. Well named, that Dave Mazdakowski. Hey Dave!

Now Dave Mazdakowski enters from Stage Right. He is nattily dressed in a camel hair suit made to look hip, Sixties-style lapels. He is a good-looking man, dark, tall. He looks at Celia. There is a sign of recognition between them. The professor is oblivious. He is just interested in getting the car fixed.

Dave Mazdakowski: Trouble, Celia? The car hood is up.

This makes the professor do a slight double-take.

Business: Almost ignoring the professor, the car dealer rolls up the sleeves of his lobvely suit, gets a bit of greas on the right sleeve.

Dave: Ok Celia. Try it now.

click.

click

beat.

Dave. No good. Try it again?

click

beat.

Dave (looking at the professor) My mechanic is just over at that house (he points). Luigi. You might catch him at home. Try Luigi.

And with this, Dave Mazdakowski exits, stage right.

Celia and the professor walk over to a door, stage left.
A little Italian opens the door.

Little Italian? You gotta de problem?

Professor: Car won't go. Just over there.

The little mechanic looks Celia up and down. Again, there is a flash of recognition. This time, the professor notices.

Professor (sotto voce): Who else has been fucking her, the parish priest?

The little Italian walks over to the Mustang, reaches down to the motor, unassisted by anybody else, somehow gets the car started all by himself with the triumphant cry, "I fix!"

Celia (reaching for her purse inside the car) How much do I owe you Luigi?

Luigi: Ten dollar.

The professor is nervously fumbling through his pockets. This is the second time Celia has paid the "bill".


Exeunt little Italian.

Fade

to: They are now in front of the neat white cottage in Holland Landing. There is a mock Cypress tree to each side of the house. The professor and Celia walk along the left side of the house, avoiding the front door. They have entered from the rear.

Fadeout to:

interior scene inside the Danish-style house's living room.
The professor and Celia close the rear door and seat themselves on the by-now familiar C-shaped chesterfield.

Celia: Want a drink?

Professor: Yeah, could I use one! Comedy of errors. Give it to us...We'll screw it up!

Celia peers a little closely at the professor as she goes to the glass liquor cabinet.

Celia: Are you hungry, David?
No?
Well, let's just keep drinking.

The professor peers around. Stands up. Looks into one bedroom. Another. There is apparently no one else in the house. He takes Celia's proffered drink, sits down, Celia soon joining him with her white wine.

The professor puts the drink on the coffee table. He leans back.

Celia has put her own drink on the end table to the left of the Chesterfield.
Suddenly, she is on the professor like a flash.

Professor: Hey, Celia!

She is dry-humping the professor.The professor is startled at first, but he gets into the action, cradles Celia's head in his right arm, his left hand moves towards the tight ziper of her little dungarees. Celia's derriere is now to the audience, but it is plain the professor has a finger or two right up there, and as he now leans over her.
Celia has taken to be very still as he masturbates her. After a minute of this activity, we hear Celia say, "You're pretty smooth".
Now the professor tries to get Celia out of her skin-tight jeans. He is very awkard
.He at first unsnaps the stud to her jeans. But they will not roll down from the top.
He gives a tug. No luck. She is half-lying and half-seated. The pants will not come off.

The professor, a little maddened, now tries to remove the jean by tugging from the cuff ends.

Celia falls to the floor, while still trying to snap back the stud to her jeans.

Professor (his arm now around Celia and lifting her back to the couch. He is a very strong man.): How drunk are we?

They both sit on the chesterfield. Now Celia is at him again, dry-umping the poor prof.

The professor is now in high heat. He has his back to the audience, but it is obvious that Celia is masturbating him.
She stops. The professor is now sitting down.

She kneels before him, her pretty mouth moving towards his crotch.

The professor very gently pushes her away.

He picks her up again, places her spreadeagled on the couch, tries again to peel her jeans off, but no luck.

Suddenly, from the professor: Oh!

Suddenly, from Celia: Come in your drawers, Prof?

The professor, taken up with the comedy of the situation: The Ice Man Cometh.

Celia: Humour during sex becometh not.

Celia: You'll have to excuse me for a minute.

The professor: Yeah, me too. Going to have to try our your washroom. There is a big wet stain down the front of
the professor's pants.

Segue to:

The professor has Celia half-undressed. They are cuddling each other like teenagers, neither really knowing what each is doing. They are drunk.
Celia has leaped to the professor's lap, on which she is now perched. She has her forehead against the professors forehead. They are playing cartoon eyes.

Celia: Do I remind you of your wife?

Professor. Yes. Very much.(He draws back a little) He reaches for his drink.

Professor: Hey, what's in this?

Celia: Just vodka.

The professor takes another sip. Suddenly he loses consciouness.

He lies supine on the chesterfield. Celia goes into her bedroom, comes back with a syringe, rolls up the unconscious professor's sleeve and injects him.

From the bedroom behind her, Lief emerges, with his camera.

fadeout.

.....................End ACT III, Scene 3

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Professor almost having lunch


Ah, the Aarrghony and Ecckhstasy.

Has it struck you writers out there that each go at a manusctipt is an heroic act, that every time we write it's solving a major problem, and the degree of effort is about the same as rescuing a trapped man from a burning car?

,,,And hardly anybodyever notices?

Perhaps I'm getting carried away with the romance of it all. But now with the shank end of this year, with the wind howling all around, there is something of poor old Snoopy, witing, "It was a dark and stormy night."

Fact is, after a few thousand words, expository (editorial) writing is pretty easy.

But it's the structure, the structure, the raw brains needed for the armature on which the clay shall be puttied.

As for brains, I fear I haven't got any, but I'll try to restructure the narrative part of Act III, Scene 2 and bring it out in play form (There will be some comic relief for those of you easily bored).


Act III, Scene 2

Scene: We are back in the Dickensian restaurant. Celia and the professor are seated, having something at the table. Stage right is a small bar, next to the cash. A woman, alone is having a white wine.

Professor to Celia, who looks stunning in her tight 6O's-style tank pants and velour halter top:
Another white wine?

Celia: Oh, why not. But I'm getting a bit peckish. We'll have to eat later.

They signal to the waitress.

Professor (Observing that Celia is really decked out in war paint, in makeup. Her hair is done in little blonde cornrows.. She is petite and very beautiful): Just noticed. Are you ever pretty.

Celia: Hmmm?

Professor: Hmmm.

Celia: Hmmm!

The waitress brings Heineken beer and the white wine.

Waitress (before she puts down the drinks) Are you Professor Jaworski?

Professor. Why, yes.

Waitress: Therere's a phone call for you. At the bar. Do you want to take it?

Professor. Looks first at the weatress and then at Celia: Oh, I guess I'd better...How did anyone know I was in here?

The professor walks over to the bar, where the lone woman is sitting. She is perched on a very high stool. It is about two feet from the brassy, oakyl bar. The professor wonders how she can reach her drink.

Business: The professor has to get past the woman to get to the phone. He hunches down a bit to get at it.
Suddenly, the woman, who is dressed in a black skirt and high heels, winds her legs around the professor so he can't get at the phone.He turns round to discover panties.

Mysterious woman: You've been doing some hard work, haven't you? I can smell the work and stress.

The professor (untangling himself, one knee at a time. He puts an arm around the woman's right shoulder)
I think you're lovely. It's just that I have some business to attend to right now.

The professor keeps an arm around the woman's shoulder. He reaches for the telephone with his right hand.
There is a dial tone. The caller, probably tired of waiting, had hung up.

He takes his left arm off the mysterious woman, gives her a hug and goes up the little stairway leading to the booths. Celia is there waiting for him He rejoins her.

Professor: The woods are full of funny people.

Celia (A little affected by the wine she has almost finished) Ummm. Wha..

David: I don't know how to tell you this. It really reminds me of a joke, the one about the musician, playing badly all night, complaining over the actions of a disgruntled pervert,who had been doing a Pee-Wee Herman all night, while nobody was watching. "Someone in the audience threw a f*ck at me."

Somebody just threw a f*ck at me.

Celia: David! What are you talking about?

Proessor: Lady at the bar. Almost attacked me.

Celia: You got confidence. That's what it is.

The professor is feeling expansive.

Professor: Did you ever read a book by Frederic Exley, "A Fan's Notes"?

Celia: No. All my reading has been historical novels, Romance. I did read a little Goth once.

Professor: Goethe.

Professor: Anyway, Mr. Exley is disgusted over being a fan all his life, of loving The Gipper, of loving great authors.
But it was always somebody else that was great, never him."

Celia (now draining her glass) Hmm.

Professor: More white wine?

Celia: Oh, why the hell not. I need a mental health day.

The drinks come. Celia and the professor are talking animatedly.

Professor:That's how I feel. Just like all my colleauges. "Why don't you write?" "Woldn't want to sully the crafty with my clumsy scrawls" kind of thing. Well, I want to write, damn it. I want to construct huge sprawling novels.
I have read Tolstoy in the Russian. He is my hero. But I'm only a fan.
I'll always be just a fan. Only a fan.

Celia: Get me another drink and you can be my hero.

They order more liquor. Grand Marnier this time.

Celia: Hey David. Which one of us is going to drive? I promised you dinner. Think we'd better get going.

Business: They leave the restaurant. It is Celia who pays the bill. The little Greek owner says to Celia:
Where are the others? You're usually in here with a whole lot of other people from the university.

Celia to Greek owner: "Ah, this time the professor has me all to himself." She winks.at the Greek. He does not wink or smile back.

They leave the restaurant.

..............end Act III, scene 2

Friday, October 27, 2006

Fire in Bradford. Narrative section

Ah, well.

Nothing to get excited about.

When all else fails, there is always narrative.

The play's the thing, of course. One thinks that one can finally show, rather than tell.

But I am on my thirteenth cup of coffe, marathon coffee drinking the only thing I have in common with Balzac or Moliere, both cofee imbibers..

Didn't want to be in this play anyway...The old fifties joke about the young actor who was to say, "Hark! Cannon!" and the little Brooklyn kid, startled by the noise backstage, yells, "What the f*ck was that?!"

And so, hight on caffeine and the usual stimulants that turn an otherwise nice, mildly dyslexic guy into a writing fool, here we go with narrative for the middle part of Act III of THE FIRE IN BRADFORD. I will go back later to actually place the actors and fill in the blanks. Motion is life. But for the time being, one has to emulate Papa a bit and arrest motion.

Here goes for fiddling with Act III, viual effects later:


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 interruped for only twenty short minutes, while Deighton Ronning, tall, artistic, avuncular, joined us, said little for a change, showed impeccable table manners, and left.

Everything was in a beautiful haze. I was constructing huge, sprawling novels over our cigarette smoke. Here I was, the failure prof and politician with a beautiful woman right across the table from me, Deighton having muttered to himself, just before he left, "What a good looking couple"; I was in my glory, but what about Lief? What was hubby going jto say when we got "home"?

We finally, or she finally, paid the cheque. I was flat broke from a not-too-recent foray into politics and an untenured prof's salary wasn't that good. She bantered a little with Chris, the little Greek owner, the svelte movie star with the heartbreakingly tight tank pants and halter top, paying for the bum's 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 almost ran aground.

Uhhrrr.

What to do?

Passing us, turning a corner, was a red truck with Deighton's oldest son driving.

"Hey Horse!" He was a pretty big kid. Kid named Horse.

Horse did a one-eighty and came over to us. He was obviously excited by Celia's appearance, but he looked down at the exposed V-8 and said something about a deteriorated distributor cap. Could do a patch job, but it wouldn't last long.

Temporarily repaired, we drove west along Millard Avenue only to stop again at the Queen Street hairpin.

Soon Dave Mazdakowki showed up. Dave Mazakowski, new car dealer. What else?
He obsereved Celia and me in trouble, pulled up the sleeves of his $500 suit, which was camel hair and fashionably toned down, made to look hippie. Big Dave tried to fix the trouble. No luck, though some sort of recognition seemed to flash between Dave and Cela.

Zip. Nada.

Car won't go.

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

We walked toward the mechanic's house.

Luckily, the little Italian was right at the front door. "I fix."

This is taking forever to get going. Would I be able to get my own distributor cap going?

I watched Celia pull our her handbag one more time, saw the little Italian fussing with the distributor, and "Presto! I fix." We were on our way.

Having parked the car, we entered Lief's house from the rear and I thought tha this was it, that I was going to get it now. Would Lief be right there witha shotgun?

Suddenly, in Celia's face, I saw an accomplice's face, a female Kavorkian,and the suicide would be mine. The Last Supper. Lief would at least hold court in a situation like this, tell me what is what and throw me out of the house, as I knew I'd do if the ciircumstances were reversed. Okay to "serve the drinks", be the man in control, but sometimes you have to drink a tough draft yourself.

But there was no Lief.

We walked into that warm Danish living room, there was a guitar in the corner,and after we settled down, I asked if I could play it.

"Of course, David. I'd love to hear you play."

So I did the Renaissance lute player thing, remembering some preludes from Ponce that Leona Boyd had shown me, and did a fair shoemaker imitation of Three Preludes, by Ponce. I segued into Greensleeves, doing my Henry VIII lute player thing, almost, it seemed, dressed in pantaloons and tunic. Lay it on, you fraudulent old bastard!

She seemed genuinely rapt. Obviously loved live music.

In the middle of an arpeggio, I suddenly kissed her, there in front of me, and put the guitar to one side. Almost knocked it off the coffee table as we settled into that by-now familiar chesterfield.

On the C-shaped chesterfield, the two of us full of alcohol, and and almost content. "Delighting in you company", as in the Greensleeves song.

She stirred, touched my arm and excused herself o fiddl with something in the kitchen. Her intention had been to make dinner Then, just as quickly, she was back.. "Are you hungry? No? Well, let's just keep drinking."

Salud.

Suddenly she was on me like a flash of animated dry-humping that would have driven me mad with desire had not her action been so unexpected. She just jumped on top of me and pumped and pumped, like a seventeen-year-old bride married to an older lothario. I had been erect a full half-hour and it was driving me 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, my lefthand moved toward the tight zipper of her litle dungarees. I passed the fiery angel a the gate, having discovered she had no underwear on at all, and I was soon inside her pretty little vagina.

"Pretty smooth," she whispered to me, but here 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 ask her, half-grinning, "Am I doing you any good?" The answere came in some really nice muscular action. I had to get those damn jeans off her.

Nice work if you can get it.

Married for a long time and later used to going with women of 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 top down and have her wiggle out; the other was to have her sit facing your left hand, flipping open the stud and then peeling down.

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

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

And then it all came apart. Dear god, how drunk were we? While I was still on my back on the chesterfield, she stood up. I sat up to face her. I seemed to have her transfixed. She went 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 shoulder to stop her.I could not do it. She was just too beautiful,this blonde madonna with the pretiest 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 her jeans, the same awkward fashion only to have her zip them back up again, turn from me and go into her bedroom.

She came back with something for me to drink. I took it absentmindedly, sipped, and aske if I could have some more vodka in it.

Distressed, frustrated, I told her Ihad to have a good stiff shot to fight off the cramps, lover's nuts and all those things that come to plague teenagers and grown men.

Then the room began to spin.

I watched her disappear in some sort of hazy Bermuda fog. And I lost consciousness.

I came to to find her in my arms, in the same position before I passed out.. I was fondling her erect breasts, the nice little ones with the protruding nipples and she was staring into my eyes, pointblank, asking me if she reminded me of my wife. "Yes you do, Celia," I told her and she used a face-to-face visual trick that my former 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 everyso often, sheer inimacy and love.

Something made me turn my eyes aside.

Then she was suddenly on my lap and I massaged her breasts some more. But whatever it was she had given me to drink, it was hitting me again. I was, just-like-that suddenly tired. Dead tired. I wanted to ge to sleep. She lifted me from the sofa, groggy, barelystanding in mystockinged 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 admonished.

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

My head is spinning. I know I can have her. Right now, if I hadn't already had her in my blank spell, hypnotized, perhaps in ever being able to remember; I can have her right now, but I'm oh-so-tired, so tired. I begged to get to sleep in the spare room. "Come with me. Lie down with me," I invited. "No," she said. You know what will happen." So she was still in control after all.

She stood in th open doorway of her bedroom, a pale light streaming behind her, while I made for my own allotted room.. I think at about five a. m., I went to he bathroom for a pee and she was still standing there, like a female Socrates in a catatonic trance. Certainly like a beautiful sphinx on the head of a coin.

I woke up with a feeling me friend Deighton Ronning said he'd often had:
Seems like I had been in a whorehouse having neither money nor erection. I knew everything in life escept how much things cost and how old Tiny Brain will sometimes interfere with your shift lever mechanism so that you won't get into any real trouble. --Or did she not want to get laid? Or had she, before leaving me in my room, given me some strange implant?
Yet I knew that she had taken something from me.

Morning.

She was sitting in her long paisley dress, knees together in a virgin pose, or the pose of a woman who wants to get laid, but the lothario is just too damn 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 oher 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, like a hooker's the trickster Newfoundlander in my head is hissing at me, there freom Newfie, where I'd sometimes lived.

She drove me back to the terminal. In spite of the strange night, I felt as I'd been loved more thoroughly than I'd ever been loved before.

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

There appreared to be a small needle prick inthe crook of my arm. And the next day I woke up feeling like a fool. I had not connected. I had failed.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The U-boat Commander's Woman


The fine line between genius and idiocy--what am I going to do next with my play of the randy prof who may as well have written his own version of "The Wrong Box", certainly the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people. A bixexual (omnisexual?) husband, a wife like a half-shagged fox in a forest fire and a rogue teacher just plain looking for a lover.

The play could be as tight and evocative as The Glass Menagerie or as crummy as Homo Hotpants, a play an old gay friend once wrote and showed me. He made money. I still hated the play.

At any rate, my professor wants to get away from the funny scenes in Bradford. Takes out an apartment in The Big Smoke and this is the beginning of our Act III, THE FIRE IN BRADFORD.


Act III Scene One

Scene: The Toronto apartment where the professor is settling down, reading something over his kitchen table.

MUSIC IN BG: Ronnie Hawkins' My Baby Sent Me a Letter. Up.
Then fade to BG.

Narrator: I retreated to my apartment in Toronto. She did not have my number threre. I really needed to get away.
But it was not to be so easy. She had somehow gotten my address through another student with whom I'd spent pub time.

Professor (reading):

Dear David,

This letter contains little of importance. If you have other things to do, like cleaning lint off your navel, fixing windows or fixing a steak--you just go ahead and do those things.

Professor (lighting a cigarette) The little vixen. (Goes back to reading):

"Still with me? I thought you would be. Heh.

David,there are things we need to talk about.

The friendship is comfortable, is it not.. The mutual admiration society is as strong as ever. We need to get together for lunch. Your call."

Business: The professor has a final drag on his cigarette, butts in the green glass ashtray, rises, goes to telephone stand and starts dialing.

..........end Scene One, Act III



Scene II, Act III

The professor is standing outside the entrance to the Hart Steakhouse. Celia is late.

But here she appears in something extremely fetching, something like a modified U-Boat kapitanleutnant's uniform, her long blonde hair over her shoulders, heightening the outfit's masculinity.
But she is beautiful. The long hair makes her all woman.
She is clacking, in her stilletoes, towards the professor, who is butting his cigarette into a flower pot at the entrance.

Celia (who has clacked toward him now) Sorry I'm late. Tied up at work.

Professor (turning a way a bit, and sotto vocce)

He faces her full- on, takes both her hands.

Professor: How nice to see you!

LIGHTS: Dim to UP as we are in the interior of the restaurant. Dickensian. High booths on platforms, raised chairs, enormous backrests. Celia and David are having something at it.

Celia: Ooh. I could eat. You hungry, David?

Professor: You betcha. Spent all night over a hot essay. And banging hell out of my guitar.

Celia: You play the guitar? I didn't know that.

Professor: Oh. Ah. Liona Boyd and I ended up at the same fine arts school on time. I watched her a lot. Learned a few things. But I'm really into old Robert Johnson blues.

Celia: Who is Robert Johnson?

Professor: Guy from the Deep South, the father of blus and rock'n'roll. Most cool. Impossible to imitate.
He is the one who expressed the pathos of life as a black man and his tin shack, dumped upon by everybody.

The steak arrives. They make inroads.

The professor observes how prettily she eats. Little Miss Muffet. Mouth pretty as an idyll Sharp elfin teeth.

Celia (elegantly wiping the corner of her mouth with the real linen napkin: I meant to tell you that maybe we could get together again after class next week. Maybe play a little guitar? Hmm?

Professor: But Celia. What about Lief?

Celia: Tuesday Lief won't be back till the wee hours.

Professor: How do you know that?

Celia: There are things going on that maybe you can't see.

Professor: ....Friends?

Celia. Yes friends. Male friends.

Professor: (Taking a second, huge draught out of his brandy glass. He winks at Celia over top of the shnifter):
Omigod. I thought Tuesdays was Lief's night for women!"

Celia (a little more serious know) Lief and I have a warm and happy relationship.
He treats me well. I am in a comfortable situation. He lets me do what I want.

Professor (almost stopped over a mouthful) Umm. Yes. Well.

Business:
Celia is nibbling prettily on her salad. She stops, and reaches into her leather-monogrammed purse.

Celia: This is going to be on me, David. I'm the one who asked.

Professor: Oh, no. Really. I'll get it.

And suddenly, appropos of nothing, Celia rises and leaves the table, pauses at the cash, pays the bill, and is gone out the door.

The professor is siting there ruminaing.

Profesor: My, what a lovely control freak.
The outfits she wears.Masculine. U-boat captain. Is she going to submit something to GAY MARINE STORIES? And that outfit she works for. ANAGRAM
.Touch of the cabal. ANAGRAM.
Fata Morgana. Morgan Fay.My, what a pretty witch. And there's nothing poor Lancelot can do about it. I've got a hard-on the size of the CN tower.

..........enc Scene II, Act III

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Kiss and Ride


There is a steel company in Hamilton ON, which prides itself on the slogan, "our product is people."

My recent problems with my computer, probably made in Hamilton, would read, "Made in Hamilton, by incompetents--Our product is people.

Or is that me?

Made in Hamilton, by incompetents.

It's like the old Johnny Carson Tonight Show. Somebody brings in a one-wheeled motorize bike. It is called a Wheelie. He can not get it to work.

Says Johnny:
"Ah well. Somedays you just can't get your Wheelie to work"

That's me.
Lost all the top part of my blog, because my right hand pinky keeps hitting history or something.
If I were back in San Miguel Allende, I would surely be named Manuel Incompetent.

So before anything else happens, I'd better give you Act II, Scene 5 of this play I'm working on.

THE FIRE IN BRADFORD

Act II Scene 5


Scene: It is the Kiss'n'Ride terminal on Yonge Street, at the top of Toronto.The glassed structure looks a lot like a Fifties jukebox , or the rotunda-like layout of a hospital emergency entrance. Outside, the circular lines of asphalt where workers were dropped off by too often still pyjamaed spouses. Inside, stairs leading to the trains.A quick kiss, hubby or wife goes to work, driver goes home for second cuppa.
Right side of Lief's SUV nears the curb. The professor sits next o Lief, who is still finishing his coffee from the Tim Horton's travel cup. Celia is on the outside, cloest to the curb.
Celia: Here we are.(She leans over the professor, the professor getting a brief faceful of brassierre. She gives Lief a kiss. Wifely kiss.The professor gets a whiff of makeup and Celia's perfume.his excites him..
Professor: Oh man. Nothing like showbusiness. Gotta rock'n'roll. The Roar of the Greasepaint. The Smell of the Crowd!
There is a rumble and then a screech in the building, as inside, a subway car comes to a stop Before opening the SUV passenger door, Celia reachs over to, ever so briefly, and in full view of Lief, caress the professor's bulge.She opens the door, pauses, now on the inside running board, out of view of Lief's gaze, and mouths, "Phone me at work."
The professor closes the car door behind her and gets a lovely flash of Celia, half-turned and waving in her Victorian Paisley dress and the red granny boots.Lief waves back, and so does the professor. She closes the Kiss'n'Ride glass door behind her and vanishes down the stairs.

LIef and the professor speed off towards Bathurst Street to go south. The Parkway not too far away has turned into
Parking Lot, so Lief has to brave traffic and still get to work on time.
/tg orifssor is still high, not sure whether it's last night's vodka or something in the coffee.

Professor. This is, uh, just a little rococo. Makes me think of a line out of Faulkner. Some Indian guy with a name like 'Had two Fathers'."
Liefer, , old fruit. We playing musical broads? "Had Two Husbands"?
Leif doen't appear to like this.

He takes his eyes off the road to look at the professeor. Angry look.

Lief: "It's my wife and my car, David.

The professor is a little squelched. He takes a sip of the coffee dregs.

Lief: So you've taken out an apartment in Toronto.Why is that?

Professor: Why do you think, Lief?

Lief, who is no fool: The Just Man Syndrome. I didn't think you little arrivistes had any class.

Professor: Gotta make my getaway.

Lief: Yeah. St. Louis Woman.

Professor: More like St. James Infirmary Blues.

Lief: Never met a sweeter man than you?

Lief has now parked the SUV infront of the other Kiss'n'Ride.

Professor (getting out):Want a kiss before I go, Lief.?

Lief (With door still open): "Of all the women in the world--and you're pretty goodlooking--Of all the women in the world, you'd have to pick her!

..........end Act II, scene 5


Damn,damn and double damn!
Keep hitting the little history bar or whateever, just under my pinky.
Lucky got this much done...Will probably figure out the problem in the morning.
This new keyboard is out to sabotage me.
Gevolt!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

VTR History Project


"You don't know how to play the game," the CBC editor was telling me. ''It's not content, it's the money from the grants."

"So it's whom you blow?"

"Are you trying to get into my pants?"

"You'd like that, wouldn't you Fred?"

"Why you asshole. You; never finished anything you've started.The heroine of your novel is a total bitch...and even that you couldn't finish."

"So where's your novel, Big Producer? You can't even spell... Recruit some guy out of the oil patch without even a degree and call him a creative director. Brokeback mountain impersonator, who only knows artists for their gayness rather than the talent they've got and you haven't. So you order them around. You know how to fuck up an artist.
"That's why CBC drama is so bad...All the good people soon quit, being abused by people like you, who belong in an oil patch. Didn't even finish high school...And you tell me I haven't finished my novel.''

The producer sucked on his Havana. "Oh for Christ's sake, bring in the rest of your book."


But I didn't have that particular book finished.

Who was wrong, and who was right?

Ability hides in the strangest places? I did see a pretty good documentary with D.F.'s name on it.But all in all, it was still on my taxpayer's dime.

So there may be meat in the argument, supporters of Margaret Atwood, for example: Can you write eighteen books? And if so, where are they?

Eighteen books are damn hard to write.

It is with such trepidation that I now go on to Scene Four in Act II of my play.

Portrait of the artist as a playwright manque'?


But what the hell. It is a tragicomedy. Story of my life. Story of your life.

Who the hell invented my life?

I INVENTED YOUR LIFE TO DRAW DOODLES AROUND ADS.--(signed) GOD.

OK Lord. I'm gonna build me an ark!


Act II, Scene Four


Scene: It is morning in the same yuppie apartment. A coffeepot is hissing merrily in the kitchenette stage left.

Lights: Up.


There is a woman in an 18th century corseted paisley dress and red granny boots. It is Celia. She is all energy and crispness.

Celia: All right. Let's get it together! Lief! David!

There is noise overhead. Lief presently comes down the attic stairs centre stage. There is a VTR in his right arm.
he is fumbling in his left-hand pocket for something.
The professor has hastily put on his trousers. There is a shirttail hanging out. He enters from stage right.
They gather around the oak dinner table. Celia busies herself, pouring coffee into portable plastic cups.
The professor gets his coffee and is about to drink when he notices that there is an unnatural bulge in Lief's left-hand pocket. Lief had placed the VTR on the table.

Professor: Doing something at work, Lief?

Lief: Uh.Yeah.

The professor is stil half-drunk. Lief is standing over him, a bulge in he left pant pocket.

The professor gropes at the bulge. "Whatcha hidin' there Lief?

Lief: Ah, just some equipment
. He is moving his left hip towards the professor, his crotch towards the professor's hand.

Professor: you're kind of moving into that, Lief. Come on whatcha got?

Lief follows the professor's hand, lingers there for a bit and finally produces a pair of jewelled opera glasses.
He places the lorgnette on the table, beside the VTR.

Professor (looking right to Celia, who is having her cofee on the left side of the chesterfield with its cofee table in front. He looks up again at Lief: He is half giggling.
Professor: Nice paraphanelia, Lief. Made in China.
Still has 'Peiping' on it.

Lief: Peiping Tom? He makes a face.

This breaks the ice. They all laugh.

Celia is now standing. She motions lief and the professor toawards the back door. No time for breakfast, guys. Sorry. We're running late. They leave the house.
Music: First bar of theme from William Wyler's olf film"The Collector.' Fade out.

Lights: Down

........end act II, Scene Four, THE FIRE IN BRADFORD.

And so we leave our characters for a bit. Hector the Director and his VTR and his lorgnette, Celia and her paiseley dresses, the professor, thinking he is superior to all this--but is he really? His sophistication, his self-assuredness is really a kind of emotion, heightened by something they had put into the cofee. They will be showing him the dungeon next, and he knows it.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Lief out of the Machine



Ah, the nature of the beast.
Why do we writers absolutely burn outselves out, leaving ourselves vulnerable, psychologically unprepared, immune system down--to be absolutely bowled over in any crisis, domestic or work-related.

Thirty years ago, on a bright June day I had completed, in San Miguel Allende, a novel on which I produced 35 pages a day, proof copy. I was glad to place the THE END at the end.

I had been on a regimen of tequila, strong Nescafe, marathon sex to relax, and all kinds of Corona de Baril beer so I could sleep...There wasn't that much sleep, as I had run a cross a nymph at the Jardine, town square. "Are you a Wood Nymph," I asked, half jokingly. "No," she had said. "Just a nymph."

So here is a man going to hell fast, while producing 35 proof pages a day.

No sooner do I complete the book than I get a Dear John from somebody.

Wheeeeee. Whoooooosh. Nininaninaninoona!

"You are crazed," said my mistress.

"I am crazed," I agreed.

Run, don't run. Grab a plane, don't grab a plane. Kick ass. Don't kick ass. One million dollars at stake in bank account and property...And I had to go on this marathon writing thing, leaving myself as weak as light beer.
The wood nymps starts to pour the love on, trying to get me to relax, to pour out the madness, extend it, get me back to myself, whoever that was.

I can not paint, but I was surely Gaugin. Gaugin and his Wahines. Sex, drugs and rock'n'roll and 35 pages a day. Mexico on 35 pages a day.

Bunout

The god wants a price and old Scrooge was coming to collect.

I had given my life for art, whoever the f*ck Art was.

So here we are doing it again, creditors at the door, old partner still wanting to argue and we're trying for 35 pages a day.

It is at this point, probably that the landlord will come knocking, the collection agency guy with a lawyer, my anus will fall off and I'll be signing myself into the jigsaw puzzle assembly plant.

Magnificent obsession.

And leading to where?

Nought.

Nature of the beast.


So here we go with Act II, Scene 3, of THE FIRE IN BRADFORD



Act II

Scene Three


Lights; UP

music in BG; "All My Love's in Vain", by the Rolling Stones. UP, then fade to bg.


Narrator.

Ah, she was on my freqency all right. On my frequency in spades. Or was it the Rolling Stones?


MUSIC: uP.

Well i follwed her to the station
With a suitcase in her hand

Narrator;

Ah, the Stones doing the Robert Johnson, that man who knew of the pathos of life, black but not always blue, a genius, and the Stones ripping him off. Ah, but there are times when Mick can write too. On my frequency, yes.
let's have some frequency modulation.

Music in bg. Segue to "You Can't Always Get What You Want', by the Rolling Stones. From guitar ride to:

I saw her at th reception
A glass of wine in her hand
I knew she was gonna make her connection
In her glass there was a footloose man


NARRATOR:Yes, somebody had made Celia into his novel. Somebody has made me ino a novel. Brilliant bastard.
And was I to be the bleeding man at the bottom of Celia's glass?
Ah, that first night with Celia, Lief passed out in the next room...

LIGHTS: up.

Scene: The professor and Celia are still on the same living room set. They are dancing,somewhat intensely to
Robert Johnson's 'All My Love's in Vain', done by the Rolling Stones. They stop when the music stops, and return to the chesterfield.
She begins to unzip the professors fly.
The professor is beginning to wake up, wake up to this tender trap.

Professor: Hey. Hey. What goes on between you and Lief? What is your relationship anyway? You are a married woman after all.

Celia takes a sip of her white wine. She is beautiful. Nice, high forehead. Flesh-coloured lipstick. Blonde hair abob.

Celia; Lief and I have an open marriage. He has male friends. He has female friends. I have female friends. I have male friends.

"You want another drink?"

Professor: "I think I'd better.

BUSINESS: There is a thumping upstairs that startle both the professor and Celia.

Somebody almost falls through a trap door in the ceiling, a naked arm, a flash of genitals.

Professor: What the hell?

Celia, touching the professor's shoulder: Oh don't be startled, David. Lief is upstairs looking for that insurance policy. We are remortgaging the house. None of us have been able to find that old policy. I told him it was up there in the attic somewhere.

Professor; Three a.m. and looking for an insurance policy? I thought Lief had passed out.

Celia (giggling). Tacky, isn't it? Leif and I will drive you home in the morning. You can stay the night.

LIGHTS; Down

..........................End ACT II, Scene 3

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Fire in Bradford, Act II, Scene l and 2



There goes that devil on my shoulder, stabbing his little pitchfork in me again.

"You brag one more time about your theatre luck, I'm not just going to give you bursitis. I'm going to make your dick fall off."

Forewarned by my devil.

Makes me think of an old Chess Records blues song:

"Evil angel
On my shoulder
Well you sure do
Know your stuff

But this is more of a forewarning devil.

I do notice that whenever Flood or Bernita or Sandra Ruttan or Sela Carsen--and a host of published others--whenever they get something "in print", they keep it low key. They do not brag.
My other name may as well be Will Bragg, and I'm going to stop it.

So here, following some requests from some real people for more of my play, which is as yet unpublished--Here ACT II of THE FIRE IN BRADFORD.



ACT II


Scene One
............................

Setting: Main Street, with Lief's red Toyota SUV in front of parking meter.

Celia and Lief have the professor between them. He is very drunk.They are walking towards the vehicle.

Professor, who is babbling: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his goods, nor his ass.

Lief (gigggling as he tries to hold up the professor'sright shoulder) "Nor his ass?"

Professor: I know your're a fart smastard, Lief. I know you've read Kant.'A Posteriori. One of Kant's propositions.

Celia, ( who has the professor's left arm, begins to giggle as well) David, what did you just say?


Professor: Kant. Immanuel Kant. What did you think I said?...And if your pronoune Goethe like Goth again I'll lay a Johnny Rotten on you.

Celia: You're lucky I like the things you say. Even the rude things.

Celia's head is now almost underneath the professor's arm. Lief fumbles in his right-hand pocket for the keys.
They steer the professor around the front of the car to the sidewalk, so they can dump him in the back seat.
Lief starts the SUV. There is a pause.

Lief turn back towards the prof, who is screwing up lighting a cigarette.

Lief: Threre is an ashtray in front of you. Pull it back.

Professor: Fuck you, good friend Lief. The world is my ashtray!

Lief, to Celia, almost whispering: This guy's a professor? He's not even middleclass. Listen to him! Boy, you really pick them!

Ceilia: He's a brilliant writer.

Lief: Well, I don't care if he's a brilliant writer. I'm from the west. I know we laugh at Newfies here in Ontario, but over in Alberta, we used to call them Ukies. The guy's a boor, a horse's ass!

Professor: I heard that.I may be a horse's ass, but I noticed, when I said something to you back in the bar and grabbed your knee for emphasis, your moved right into it.

This brings a laugh from Lief. He turns back to the professor.

Lief: Fast reflexes.

Professor: I don't know what you guys have in mind, but I've got no other place to go right now.

And they are off.


Scene II
;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;


Interior of a neat white cottage in Holland Landing. A white shag rug down in a Danish style living room with
A U-shaped chesterfield facing a solid oak hi-fi. There are Cezanne and Pieter Brueghel the Elder farm scenes on the walls. Millets. Harvest scenes. Standard yuppie
Lights: Up.

Celia and the professor are on the chesterfield. She has her left arm around the professor's neck.

Celia: You'd, um, like me to hold you? She reaches for his genitals and pauses there a long while, her red painted nails kneading the stiffening professor.

Celia: We should have some music.

She stops the dry fondle and goes to the hi-fi.

She bends down to select some LP's. There is a terrific shot of a beautiful, pear-shaped derierre. Like Jaylo's.

She has put on Bob Dylan's "It's all right ma, I'm only Bleeding

Music: Up.

Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows the earth, the child's balloon
Makes you understand too soon
There is no sense in trying.

Suicide remarks are torn
From the fool's mouthpiece the hollow horn
Makes you see, goes to warn that
He not busy being born
Is busy dying.

There is a guitar ride here while the great Amercan genus rasps it out, sharp trick-of-the-trade F-chord penetrating the D tonic, again and again. There is a crescendo now to this lick, Da-doom. Da-doom. Music slows, with this guitar lick repeating, again and again, to fade.

Lights.

.....end Scene Two

(To be continued, as soon as Ivan gets his second wind...I'm still writin', writin', writin', Jaye)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Fire in the Prof's Pants or: THE FIRE IN BRADFORD


It's one of those days when I've overloaded myself with work, trying to make up Jaye Wells' impossible assignment of 40 pages a day, trying to sell a play review to big media, and atttempting a replate of my Black Icon novel to be put up on this site, more or less complete.

So I will cheat a little bit here as I try to convert my novella, The Fire In Bradford into a play that I have just forced upon poor Ray Burdon, a theatre director in Newmarket, Ontario.

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


Set: A really cool English-style pub, replete with oaken bar, general Tudor wood-and-plaster atmoshere, oak tables in front of the bar. There is a dart board behind the tables.


But first, there is voice-over. There is a picture of Celia in full Marilyn Monroe mode on the wide screen in the bar.


NARRATOR:

Celia appears before you while you are rolling your own cigarettes, the 1920's Vogue face, the bobbed hair, a beautiful flapper not yet fallen into the rye on one September day, though I would know in future September days that she had a hunger for opium and cocaine, and that would make her thoroughly modern, thoroughly like My Lady of the papers.
Hash papers, and hot knives.
I was in fact a newspaperman with a predilection for French authors because they were so maddeningly thorough, that mark of real writers, and so well did I get to know 20th century authors in French that I soon got to teach a nigh course in it. Ah, that French penhant for the absurd, the splayed-out mysticism of an Andre Malraux and that incredible clarity of image and idea that only the French writers possess--and they'd be the first to tell you.
The French are somewhat superior and they know it.

Enough that I was a teacher of French authors and she walked in one day with no hint of the Vogue beauty that I would later get to know, no inkling as to the heaviness of spirit that would later come to oppress me, no clue at all as to the beautiful woman who resided in the suburban Mam's bib overalls she used to wear to my classes, the little white tee shirt with the apple on it, or the closely cropped hair of the liberated, funky, suburban young woman.
Ah, but there is another visitation right now, a flahsback from the days I'd imagine myself a Goethe scholar, abandoning French altogether for some time, the image of Katschen Schoenkopf :(image presented here on screen) Goethe's first love, the nice high forhead som many girls from Ontaro possesses, the hair severely back in a bun with the neatest little bonnet atop, large haunting eyes like your mother's, straight nose, somehwat probing, delightful little crooked lips with the overbite. This too is the image of Celia, but this time with a pre-Victorian dress exquitedly corsetet, nice breasts, waist hardly existent at all.
And granny boots! My God, there were at least two Celias that I knew about, and after the years, many, many more.
Ah, yes. She had been in to study French authors, a fascination for the Bastille, I guess, the French Revolution, socking it to the Boubons, all that stuff of high drama for a fairly active imagination constrained somwhat by a husband--always the husband!--whom she imagined as pesky.

I was a somewhat raffish professor who enjoyed drinking with his students afte class. I had no objection at all when she asked through another dsudent if she could come over to one of the pub nights, and could she bring her husband.

Scene:

The professor, slightly grizzled and a dozen students revelling at three tables that had been brought together.

Two people, straight out of a Conde Nast fashion publication approach the table.
It is Celia and Lief. Lief is handsome as the night is long, like a Eropean Wayne Gettsky, with continental manners, but no accent at all.
Celia is in a silk minidress, long sleeves, all a natural silk colour. She has one lavender eye contacts which give her a surreal, elfin look.
Canny Lief (The Lucky?) says nothing as we offer seats to him and Celia.
He has a Wayne Gretsky smile.

Celia: This is my husband, Lief.
Lief, still silent and smiling, shakes the prof's hand.

There is a meeting of eyes.

Lief's appearance is highly attractive. He is a tall man, visibly so, even when sitting down in his Maple Leafs jersey.

There is sudden activity stage right. Tha band has come in.
Lief: Oh. It's going to get busy. I'd better get the drinks for me and Celia before they start playing.

Lief rises. The prof has a good look at Celia.
She is stunning. Hair short and bobbled, cut straight across the back like a Twenties flapper. She has on blue eyeshadow. Yes, the blue eyeshadow. Dead givaway. She is available.

Lief returns with a pint of Toby's beer and a glass of white wine for Celia.

Lief: Celia has told me a lot about you. Seems you are really into Flaubert...and even Tolstoy in translation.

Prof: "Yeah, I find myself amazed that hardly anybody in the class, largely women--look at them all--has ever read real novels instead of the Harlequin trash all around them....And how they themselves love to write Harlequin--I have seen the samples. My god, what active imaginations! No wonder they're in a French Novels class. They all seem to think their problems will end, just by leaving old hubber.

Lief masks a wince, by a smile and a nod; Ah well. It's l986.

Prof: Kinda makes you think you're in a movie. Everybody's lost her sense of history. This will certainly pass.

Paause.

Professsor: Think I'm going to ask one of these lovely students to dance. Excuse me for now.

Lief to Celia, sotto voce: I've never met a man like him before. So like Inspector Cluseau from, you know, the movie.

Celia: Shut the hell up, Lief.

The professor is back from his dance.

He sits down.

Lief, a little miffed excuses himself.

Celia and the professor face each other across the hastily-wiped, oaken table.

Celia is beautiful.

The professor bends across the table and kisses her plain on the lips.

Lief, just opening the washroom door, notices.

He sits down. Celia and the prof have locked eyes.

Prof (heated now by the booze) You have a wonderful wife. Do you mind if I ask her to dance?
Lief appears totally unruffled. He holds an open-palmed hand out.
He is truly sweet as a pimp.
Celia and the prof dance. And dance.
Back to the table, and back to the drinks.
There is now a smokiness to the pub.
The professor is describing great sprawling French novels in the smoky air.
He is starting to brag, throw wild promises to the wind, descibing the novel in French he hoped to write one day.

Lief: What do you think of Balzac?
Prof. The Master. The absolute master. The Shakespeare of the novel!

Lief: My favourite. In French or English. I especially like The Fatal Skin. Where the owner of the wild ass' skin can have all the wishes, until the skin shrinks to nothing..
Prof: Yeah, don't I feel that way right now?

The band is playing something uincharacteristic, the piano players lapsing into Debussy.
Prof, looking straight at Celia: Passion flower.
Lief: Passion flower indeed. He avoids sarcasm.

The prof asks Celia to dance once more.
Celia (in his ams): Lief can't do anything. He just can't do anytying any more. I'm worried that he's turning gay.
I've told him....He just can't seem to do anything.

Prof (Now half drunk and self-confident with it): Nah. Get him some French pornography.

There is great revelry, dancing and noise in the pub. Three Scotsmen, in full kilt, knock over two beer pitchers and are asked to leave.The professor knocks over his own glass.
Celia: "That's tacky, David" She had called him by his first name.

But then Lief too, knocks over an entire pitcher, to loud applause from the others.

They are all drunk

Celia (wiping some foam from Lief''s jersey) I like David. I think we should take him home with us.

An indulgent nod from Lief.

------end Act One


OMIGOD. I THINK I'M SCREWING THIS UP.
AH WELL, MAYBE ACT II WILL BE MORE SKILLFULLY RENDERED...JAYE, HOW'D YOU GET ME INTO THIS?

--Ivan.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Stages of life: The Newmarket Stage Company


Well, I did her.

Handed in a play script to Ray Burdon, local theatre director.

He rewarded me with a chance to see a current play, event though he just works the front door these days. (Ray is retired).

But Ray does know (of course) director Harry Lavigne and producer Alison Scarlett and they had invited me to take in the Newmarket Stage Company's production of The Kitchen Witches, a Canadian play.

I guess I have some sort of reputation as a not-all-that great theatre reviewer, and no opportunity is wasted. "I'll take your script, Ivan...but you might want to review the play?"--I quote loosely.

Dear Ray,

Enjoyed the play. Very much. Thank you.

I plan, in part, to blog on it or maybe influence paddle a bit. Do i have any influence left? I am most days, an artful shopper at Dominion dumpsters. Ah art!

Ivan Prokopchuk

From: Ivan Prokopchuk

Hanging around local theatre in hopes of having a novel turned into a play, I found myself totally delighted by attending my home-town's Newmarket Stage Company's production of The Kitchen Witches an all-Canadian comedy about two Martha Stewart characters on the same cablecast cooking show who have hated each other for years. Long-dead (is he grateful up there with his harp?) Stephen Biddle dated one and married the other.

So when circumstances put Isabel Lomax and Dolly Biddle together, the insults fly faster than the food.

Dolly's producer son (or is he really Isabel's son?) tries to keep them on track just at the point where he had given up cigarettes and he is a nervous wreck. The camera man for the cooking show, moreover, is a stone Goth, played by the funny-as-hell Thomas Cooper.

Makes for a lively play.

Seems that Canadian playwright Caroline Smith resisted the current "Stephen Has Two Mommies" trend and has produced a Samuel French award-winning comedy without the politics.

I can't get over the acting.
Guess in part, it's my background and Dolly's original portrayal of a Ukrainian cooking lady on her own TV show made for lots of pyrogy jokes. We were not Poles apart in the subject matter.
But then Flo McLellan, who plays Dolly, went into high Martha mode, the accent was gone and the battle between Dolly Biddle and Isabel Lomax is on.

There are instances of actors sometimes overcoming a script that begins to sag, and I must say that Coleeen Simms, who plays the irascible Isobel Lomax soon brightens the action once Dolly stops being the Ukrainian "Babka" cooking maven and on the new cable cooking show.
Isabel Lomax comes onto the show all challenge and insult, and Dolly counters with trying to get the nearest dressing room to the set.
But there is also a god out of the machine.

Former procucer of Newmarket Stage company Ray Burdon is the poor guinea pig who has to sample Dollly and Isabel's dessert fare and he gives one hell of a performance, reminiscent (to me anyway) of poor old Jalbert in The Professor and the Blue Angel, though in this insance, Ray has the outfit all right, but it is the strawberry and cheese that they are laying all over him. And he is something like the eternus-famishus Tasmanian Devil in devouring it all.Ray Burdon is funny as hell as the Deux ex Machina. A machina soon well oiled and cared for.
So long since I'd donned the lumberjack shirt and blue jeans and waited for the casting call.

Thanks for inviting me, Ray Burdon.
I had a blast, especially in the part where Dolly became the food queen, there was the entrance march from Aida, Dolly and Isobel walk out into the audience and I am thrilled to actually behold beautiful actress Colleen Simms.right in front of my seat.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

That Peter would ...ck anything!


I was telling Flood (at Flashflood) that when you have something good going and tell everyone about it, the little deivil on your shoulder is going to give your one hell of a case of bursitis.

Happens all the time...You get a go-ahead on a story, you send it out and wham! rejection.
(I know for sure Jaye Wells and I should hang around together--certainly happens to me a lot, more often than i care to tell).

So when I got a mental block over a theatre script, I decided, hell, screw the format, why not write a book and let the director or script assistant figure it out for themselves.

I got part of this advice from Vance Packard (is he still alive?). Don't write a script: Write a book.

So instead of writing a play from scratch, I realized I already had a three-act-er in my "Fire In Bradford".
Hell, half the play can be narrated by good old "Guidebook", as in "Under Milkwood" and the use of real place names here in Central Ontario might just do it. If the folks can recognize their favourite watering holes, restaurants, opium dens--then I wold be halway there. Local colour, I say.

I sent it to my local member of pariiament (congresswoman) and she said, yeah, if it feel right, do it. I'll send you a note you can send in as an early review.

My MP is known as something of a star-***cker, from highly placed cabinet ministers to not too talented hockey players--my kind of chick!

"Gotta watch that Peter MacKay," says famed comedian Norm McDonald. "That man would f...ck anything, even
Mr. Irwin's crocodile." The reference was really to Madamme Condoleeza Rice, after rumours had sprung up that Mr. MacKay and she may have had a dalliance.

But my MP has lately been known for dating hockey players. Here's hoping she gets it on for a budding playwright.
......I know nothing about plays, neither does Flood, but, as babes in the woods, we are willing to try anything.At least I am.

I would gladly sell my not- altogether -athletic body ('Pot very happy,' says the I-Ching) for a play produced.

I am courting you, Belinda!

So all right.
I'm bragging before anything happens, and that will get that little devil active with his trusty little pitchfork.

Ouch!

For ....ck's sake!
.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Nine uses for nine dead cats


Recently, by way of e.a. monroe (by way of Miss Write, Jay Wells, a grudging Bernita et al) I was tagged to:

a) List one book that changed my life;
b) One book that I'd read more than once;
c) One book I'd want on a desert island
d) One book that made me laugh;
e) One book "that made you cry";
f) One book that you wish you had written;
g) One book that you wish had never been written;
h) One book you're currently reading
i) One book you'd been meaning to read
j) Tag five people!......Ah well, a whole bunch of us have been tagged already in four or five blogs, so I'll let you off he hook. Thank God for small mercies?

Let's see now.

One book that changed my life: The Story of Philosophy, by Will Durant. The reading of this book seems to give you a BA before even starting undergraduate work...That's if you were to enter college in l925.....but that's when the major scientific advances came in, so you'd still be in the running. Will Durant is the one person who made me understand the obscure Kant (I mentioned this to Betty Conners on the set of There's a Girl in My Soup, the play, and she said, "Don't swear, Ivan."

One book that you'd read more than once: Generation of Vipers, a scathing condemnation of American society (by an American) written, unfortunately, right at the time of Pearl Harbour, so Mr. Wylie sold only 4,000 copies--but it was enough.
Sixty-five years later, we do begin to see the same warts. Including a Pearl Harbour.

One book I'd want on a desert island: That self-same Story of Philosophy, by Will Durant (And BTW, lots of editorial help from his wife, Ariel Durant.--Maybe that's why it was so good!).

One book that made me laugh: White Trash Etiquette, by Dr. Vernon Edstom, esq.
This had me pissing my eyes out with laughter. There's a line in there, I think, that goes: "You know you're white trash when your wife puts her toes through the knee end of her pantyhose."

One book that made my cry: The Gulag Archipelago, by Alexander Solzhenitzin. (Even though I live in York Region, Canada, which is pretty well all subdivivion gulag; 'Pave paradise, put up a parking lot.").

One book that I wish I had written: Actually two: Barney's Version, by Mordecai Richler (Canadian) and Roger;s Version, by John Updike. Roger's version is about a computer geek who tries to find God through a massive search engine. The subplot has a White Trash girl in it as well, with whom a slightly evil professor has an incestuous relationship.....Egad!--Me and some of my former students? At least I waited till they graduated--I ain't no white trash!

One book I wish had never been written: Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood.

One book I'm currently reading: My own dystopia, The Hat People, which, I admit has even less imagination than Oryx and Crake.....I am probably just jealous.

One book that I'd been meaning to read: The Life of Pi....But I hear the author of the original book (Weiss?) says he doesn't mind anybody ripping off his material as long as readers are privy to the ideas.

Tagging five people? I think just about everybody in genre blogland has been tagged with this turkey.

I say turkey because this is Canadian Thanksgiving day and my turkey seems to have enough preservatives in it to make a brew for Macbeth's witches.

But the gravy, which was made separate, makes for one hell of a good dip.

And the rye whiskey is even better.

Canadian Club, I say.

Here's to ya.

Allez votre...

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Sieur de Montaigne, the Beatles and J. D. Crowe and the New South




My stomach rumbled today, and that made me think of...."

Not a good tribute to Montaigne, the inventor of the essay, but it's sure fun to think along those lines.

Eight hundred years of French culture to produce a Montaigne, and until I read the dude, I though it was something I'd been doing all along.

But my stomach did rumble today, no doubt the result of eight double-strength beers, which puts you into a state of mind of extreme vulnerability, and the state of your bowels even worse.

We got time for a crap joke here, Jaye Wells? Ha.

Yeah, my stomach rumbled today, especially after listening to vintage Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Band and a good night of TV for a change, watching wonderful Bluegrass with J.D. Crowe and the New South: Those boys can play!

I once tried to follow the literary advice that most stories are best with three elements; tried it once, in fact and found it didn't work. Artificial plots can sometimes do one in.

Largely, I find things working best at Pick, Pluck and Pray, which is more along the lines with our outsopken TV puppet here, Ed the Sock than the great Sieur de Montaigne.

But I'll try three ideas all at once anyway.

My stomach rumbled today. Made me think, in some parallel universe, of the noble Frog.
And then Yellow Submarine, which made me think of the Fab Four.

And finally, J. D. Crowe of the New South, especially some of the "Jesus" songs, for which I have a certain affinity.
...I did grow up with Hank Williams after all, and he was no stranger to songs of the Bible.

My stomach rumbled today because it struck me that we all live in a yellow submarine and it it only through true-blue American culture that we can ever come home again, come home to Applachia, that original source of Anglo-German-Irish ditties that has fed so much popular music ever since the British Invasion.

We all live in a yellow submarine, and if we don't watch it, we may yet get torpedoed by a killer sub made in our own shipyards.
America is losing soldiers every day.
We are losing soldiers almost every day.

So when I heard that bluegrass band singing "Jesus' blood can make the vilest sinner weep", I found some reason for the knot in my stomach. We kicked the shit out of the Aztecs, and yet we are back to human sacrifice and I for one can't stomach it.

Up periscope in the yellow submarine. Wake the fuck up!

Not for nothing is the South singing, "Jesus' blood can make the vilest sinner weep."

And I ain't even religious.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Three generations of lunatic pilots


I swear I am part homo, images of fighter pilots falling into the rye, as in the first chapter of Jean Genet's "Our Lady of the Flowers", posters of F4U Corsair fighters all over my walls, next to the photo of Russell Baker, my hero, handsome bastard, who forgot to lower the wheels of his naval plane one day, pancaking on the deck much the way I have in my own flying career. At least metaphorically.

This feeling state is very likely about the onset of a full moon. I do recall my flight instructor looking at me a little closely in the reflections of my instruments: This kid is crazier than a mink on a sandbar.

Full moon fever. Going solo on a full moon fever. Leaving my flight instructor three miles away, to walk laboriously back to the hangar.

Shades of old Liberace jokes. Brother George walking up the same way, to kiss Lee right between the hangars.

Failing as pilot, failing as novelist, I finally decided to take the Russell Baker route as columnist supreme, but I think I really emulated the actions of that tiger Norman Mailer when I ran for Mayor of Newmarket.

But I made my stump speech on a full moon!

"What do you plan to do about pornography?" asks one questioner.

"Why you pimply bastard! Some people should have more of it!"

Egad, when you check your calendar for a full moon before undertaking a campaign, you should get the hell out of politics.

Forgot to lower my wheels in politics too. Came in second, not bad, but still a pretty crappy landing.


The mayor's race is now upon us. I am checking for the full moon. Yep. Tomorrow. I sure as hell am not going to run for office! Just sitting there trying to appear normal is enough let alone make a stump speech.

Last time I ran, I deked into a bar to see myself of TV. "What the fuck is that speed freak doing, running for office, "one of the old boys yelped. No question about it, the puffy eyes, halting manner, as if expecting to be interrupted, misquotes, malapropisms. I didn't quite say "extinguished guests", but I might as well have.

Something about having been a college don made me quote entire lines out of Dante's Infeno; I could think of nothing more to say.

"Intermezzo del camin du nustra vita

Mi retrovai in el silva negra."

There were three black people sitting in the front, behind which was an entire family of Mafiosi, the incumbent's bodyguard.

No wonder my wife left me. "You always say the wrong thing!"

But this was no mere domestic exchange.

De Mob answers real quick. No sense of humour.

That night, I had to make a swan dive out of a second-story window.

They burning a witch here, or what?

Municiapal politics is dangerous as hell.


Ah but then there's always literature.

Why was I so intoxicated by the image of the blond fighter pilot falling into the rye?

Why did I guffaw out loud when I learned that Jean Genet, sent by Esquire to cover the Chicago riots in the Sixties, remarked with some rapture about "those thighs" on the Chicago policemen and the brutality of their boot-clad feet!

Enough, probably to give the great Elton John an erection.

Mr. John laughs about his own homosexuality: "Two gay guys were walking down the street one evening and one said to the other, "You the man!"


The sexiness of having been a pilot.

The sexiness of pilots in full flight gear.

A noted feminist said she wanted to give George Bush a blowjob when he was decked out like that in full bulge on that carrier.

I must say the image cured my of any further gay leanings.

Grossed me right out.

But then there had been the flying fuck of George Bush Sr. going down with a buddy on a parachute.

I swear this culture is homosexual.


Alpha male in a gay environment.

I guess for a while, I was thinking," if you can't fight them, join them."

But there is litearture, ah, always literature.

"Abundamant el sceno con Ventanas grandes
abudamant una cello o pozo.

The scene was one of high windows,
Leading to a cell or pit.

Uh-oh. Leading to a cell or pit, huh?

I think the Mob was trying to burn old Ivan that day, like they did to some San Francisco "slaves" in the cell quarters.

But who is not enraptured by the spell of the great Jorge Luis Borges, or for that matter, the fine pornography of John Updike (Hm. Do I really want to go there?).

Fiction, the only way out.

Words, the defences of a weak man.

There is great power in a vacuum.

There is something there, all right."When the moon is glowing a ghostly white."

I'm just not sure just what.

La Luna Luna.

Whoops, there's that fruit Debussy again!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Deus ex machina


Sorting through the garbage to determine what the hell my damn theme was.

Computer and phone out for a week; strange sense of isolation. Women had been on phone. Three a.m. loneliness-I'm-on-drugs-I-want-to-be-social-now chucks. Can't answer; they cannot reach me; I canot reach them.

Driven to old electric Smith-Corona that I had now forgotten how to operate. The damn thing is humming, waiting for you to do something. You press a key and out flies the paper. How did we get by in the old days?

You need to build up a lot of oomph to splatter the page with words. It all comes out in a huge dollop, only an artistic decision allowing you to finally place -30- on the final page. Who was that maked man, Thirdee, and why is it that we sometime journalists all place his code name at the end of our typographic scrawls?

Scrawls or not, I had produced something like a first page just to start working, working on any machine to get the mind off ones awful self and onto the production of, hopefully, literature. . What a drug this writing business is! How it is that as one grows older, he needs a crossword puzzle, a paper, a game of pool--anything to stop those wheels in your head from spinning.

I had thrown away that first page in disgust...All that labouring over precisely the right words, all that testing, sounding, scanning for style.

All that shit.

You know when the piece is good, when you have covered all the bases, when it comes first draft, all of a piece.
But you had been labouring over it. Sweating the copy, straining it, pushing the river.

And yet that's how it had been for thirty years and more. (That man Thirdee again, the end of my journalistic career). I had been a novelist in addition to journalist, but I was largely drawing the outline of my own face, something W. Somerset Maugham says you do anyway, but I'm not so sure. The self tends to be small and rather ugly. The Chinese referring to it, over the thousands of years as "that insignificant thing standing before you."
I have discovered, rather late that there are people in the world truly gifted. Genius does what it must, while mere talent only borrows; the droppings from the tables of the truly adept.

Journalism is chores. Journalism is trickery. Journalism is a blow job.

Journalism is hated by the litarati, just as commercial art is hated by the so-called "creative artists", the abstract expressionists and other optimists.

Yes, yes, that was my theme, the hatred of the journalist among the writing elite.

Yet neither can really do the other's job.

Literary types are largely disfunctional. They have a hard time with facts and procedures. Facts bore them. Technology drives them crazy.

It is the production of that monster crawling out of your typewriter or keyboard, the play's the thing, yes.

And if you labour too mightily you may well produce a mouse.

So it's getting up that oomph, having something like an epileptic fit (ten coffees will do it!) and having the piece come out all of one string. That's writing.

But it happens so rarely like that. So you become something of a Bob Woodward or John Updike, having the book go through about 34 people, spell checkers, checkers for fact, tone nuance. And more often than not, it comes out a lot better than
the author's original script. "Poetize this scene for me," Jerzy Kosinski used to order his underlings...So many freelance editors suing that talented bastard for non-paymentof fees, sometimes for plagiarizing entire rewritten manuscripts.

Ah, old Plato's parable of the cave. We can only see what we are allowed to see.

None of which is going to write the Great Canadian Novel for me.

But I have learned something over the past thirty years.

There is absolute hatred for the journalist in the literary community both here in Canada and the United States.
I was turned down for a major scholarship at Stanford University by Wallace Stegner, who said I wrote too much like a journalist, and in any event "was not an American."

Has anybody read Wallace Stegner. He is likely dead by now, so I don't fear libel.
I have never read such bird-like clumsy scrawling in my life. The man must have been one hell of a politician--that or writing has changed so much over the past seventy years that what was taken for truth and beauty a hundred years ago turns out to be charming, over-wordy Victorian swill.

Journalist vs. novelist. That was my theme; there it is on its way over to Michigan with the rest of the garbage...Biggest country in the world and we can't even figure out what to do with our garbage--Send it to Michigan; let the Yanks worry about it!

Like some of my manuscripts? Hah. Say it on!

Anyway, that first draft is gone, out to the Michigan landfill where it belongs.I finally remember what I'd typed in that first draft.

The antipathy between the journalist and the novelist.

But then look at what Truman Capote did with "In Cold Blood" and Norman Mailer with "The Executioner's Song."
Outjournoed the Journos!

Well, here's hoping that those of us who try to get to the arttistic heart of the matter-- can eventually score a Cupid hit on literature.

But then I am not sure these very different gifts are part of the same family in the first place.

Schizophrenics make the best novelists.

And we multi-media monkeys do the best we can.

We may not be greatly talented, but bigod we're fancy!

We have drawn our own face?

Why Ivan, you ugly fuck!