Sunday, December 30, 2007

Going Away

The story will deal with "going away".

This kind of story is standard for us misfits everywhere who want to be writers.

Working at a donkey job, with donkey associates. Everybody greying. Pigeon-grey Dilbert cubicles. Pigeon-grey people.

Oh to strike out, to see colour, to finally make it with Britney Spears. Hey.

Walter Mitty fantasies.

They say neurotics build castles in the air.

The psychotic moves right in.

I can at least dream the story I am going to write.

Love and Sacrifice in the Labor Movement (No not Britney's sister)

I am, probably a closet communist.
Certainly interested in labour movements of the past the --Wobblies, the Winnipeg General Strike, the first insurrection of this kind in Canada.
They squashed the Wobblies (One Big Union) movement, squashed it good, as in, maybe, Pakistan.
They absolutely pilloried the leaders of the Winnipeg General Strike, which took place at about the time of the First World War.
The McCarhyists weeded out anybody even knowing a Communist in the Fifties.
And Stalin was shown to be a monster.

Communism has a past of despotism, genocide, murder--certainly most foul.

Yet I hate capitalism.

Kingston Trio: And I don't give a damn about a greenback dollar
Spend it fast as I can

I am dreaming of a story of going away, of heading off to some Tahitian Island, like Gaugin, to have wahines, concubines, mistresses.

I want to get Clamidia (Do I like Roman chicks?) and, maybe become really fashionable, contract AIDS--I mean, wouldn't you?
I am tired of garden-variety ailments. I want to get "designer diseases"...Maybe I could get to meet Stephen Lewis, champion of the AIDS fight.

I want to meet a Tahitian girl who lives by water.
I want to wear a sarong...Heh. I worry about this.

These matters are, of course, resolved in the process of growing up.
But I never have.
I sleepwalked through my marriage, sleepwalked through my pigeon-greay job, sleepwalked through my affair with the beautiful lover, and I'm still sleepwalking, still dreaming.
My children have grown up in my sleepwalking.
I don't think I ever grew up.
I still want to be wonderful. I still want any number of beautiful lovers.

But, as in the past, you need words. The beautiful words.
If you produce the beautiful words, you will surely get laid. My professor said so.
And, as a published writer of grand mysteries, he should know:

"Two things are certain: You will get published, and you will get laid."

Hey c'mon. Times a-wastin'!

I am given to understand that one good novel will do it for you. Doesn't matter if you're a limp spaghetti noodle in bed, artistic power will be enough. It is all up to the bounty of the woman, and women are bountiful. Bootyful.

I am off to write my wonderful novel.

This, of course, will require a trip.

I am going away.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Lesson and the God-Awful Secret

Thirty years ago, on a bright January day, I decided to quit working as a part-time teacher and learn something about life.

The decision was not hard to make.
I was untenured, low man on the totem pole and developing all the insecurities that come with that plight. You don't know whether or not you'll be working next semester. It is up to the gods and the Dean. There was also the manuscript gathering dust in my attic, reminding me over the years that the dream would not age, while I surely would. My intention was to have been a writer, not a teacher. Teaching is a job, chores. It was what everybody else in my cirlcle did. It was kind of a temp position.
There were, of course, perks.
The night dean would come in, load me up with night classes, lead me to drink so I could come down from being
"on" all the time. Wife upstairs asking my whey I paced the kitchen floor and whom was I drinking with.

I had "people overload", everybody was nipping and tucking on me. I guess I was a good teacher, but my true vocation was writing, and here I was explaining to students the difference between the subjunctive and the indicative.
Yep. The good old "as it were" and as it really was.

As it really was.

I was teaching too much.
Forty hours a week, half of it at night. Talking, talking, talking. Gesticulating, demonstrating.
Intellectual stimulation all the day and then up to ten at night. Insomnia with my own theatrics and pumch lines still in my head, Johnny Carson impersonator, Professor Irwin Corey, Fungus Freddie of the science classes. Dr Suzuki goosing fruit flies for fun and profit.

Mid-life crisis.
I had to run away. To escape. To learn something about life. To write my great novel, which would finally put things into perspective. Theory of Everything... Einstein--now there was a cat.

Now Dr. Rip Van Winkle is back.

The book she is writ; the Einstinian pathway was a rollercoaster.
And what did I learn about life?
Not much.
Except that science is theology and theology is science--both point marvels above and beyond and both try to form a synthesis. Science and religion sharing the same yoke.
And science is today propaganda---like religion?

I was either dangerously close to the Ass' Bridge where I thought I knew everything, or the very Matrix that everybody is writing about these days.

I was sitting in my loft apartment shortly after I came back from my odyssey.
Thumbing and old bible in Russian.

I noticed strange similarities between Hebrew and Church Slavonic.

Especially in one of the names of god, the old biblical one.

I was getting close, really close. I think I mouthed one of the names out loud.

And then a lightning bolt hit my apartment, and the earth seemed to split underneath.

No kidding.

This will be the last time I will go fishing in forbidden streams or roam in magical forests.

Send an apprentice to the underworld the next time.

The poet says,

Every so often one of us makes a run for the wall.
And brains himself against it.
But the wall knows more wittily than we about being alive.

I had hit the wall.

Oh that "subjunctive and and indicative."

Kierkegaard went mad with it.

And that, I suppose, I share with him.

What rot.
"Mere literature," Einstein would say.

But Something is out there.
And it punishes.

...And I know that writing on these matters is somehow going to cost me. It already has.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The frustrated novelist as CIA hit man with his "final solution"

Leaving off blogging for a while is like getting off the bottle for an alcoholic.
Feels so good, you are so overstimulated by the good feeling—and then you need a drink.

And so it was when I visited my family in Hamilton.
Some of them are abstainers so I didn’t drink very much.
…Felt good, but my family’s reflection of all my woeful negative qualities were enough to drive one to drink…First thing I wanted to do this boxing day was reach for a bottle of scotch, but all the liquor stores are closed here in Ontario.
Jeezus. Boxing Day and nothing to drink. We must be in Canada.

So it’s back to the other addiction, blogging.

Well, don’t we ger ourselves into a cul de sac here.
Seems blogging, like alcohol, like a cat—takes you right over.

From my relatively sober standpoint here, I notice that one has become a sort of cartoon image of this little circular railway with the same chugging little train going around and round on the same circular little track. Sort of like the old Charlie Chaplin silent film, Modern Times, where Charlie dreams of putting bolt #35 into Frame #72, over and over again, ad infinitum.
Almost the same as the often-rejected novelist.

And nowadays, you might as well say it on--the novelist-blogger, for all novelist-manque's seem to be bloggers now.

The submitted manuscript: Both publisher and author suffer damnably from the proffered hardcopy material and oftentimes it seems that neither side can win.
The publishing house is, more often than not, immensely bored with the material.

Writer and publisher are doing each other damage.

The publisher may get final satisfaction over rejecting the piece.
The writer, if inventive in expressing his outrage, may write a neat little roman à clef to expose the publisher for a money-grubber and a fraud.
The publisher may come back with blacklisting the crazy bastard. “The guy’s dangerous, and a flake.”
Or so it seems to me when it comes to Canadian publishing.

Ah well.
Smarting recently over a rejection, I sent my script to a former theatre director.
“It’s produceable, but it needs work. We all do.”

So maybe the work “needed work”?

Seemed to me, when it came to novels, people look at your work and an ass looks out.
I am not certain these days who is the ass.

Makes one want to do mad Russian parodies of Shakespeare in Julius Caesar:

“The problem, dear Natasha, is not in our tsars, but in our serfs.” LOL.

Or maybe serifs?

I think I'm going to kill myself.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The mature student as elitist twerp

The solitary drinker has always been regarded as a peculiar creature, worse than a cripple or an onanist. He is lacking something: another person, other people.
--Ludwig Wittgenstein.
(Much underrated philosopher)

It was probably because I was a solitary drinker, yea, even an onanist! that I almost choked on my exam in Greek and Roman history at Trinity College, Toronto.

"Students of Dr. French's class in Greek and Roman History will answer Part B of this exam paper.
"Students of Dr. Weintraubs['s class in Philosophy will anwer Part A."

I was so screwed in the head from all the vodka that I was glad we were writing the exam in the open air of the now-demolished Varsity Stadium.
Student by night, reporter by day. I had just come back from submitting a written piece to the Toronto Star, where people on the elevator, sniffing my breath had said something like "Man, this elevator is really loaded."
Still "loaded", I undertook to write the exam.
But I was so nervous, so hung over, , that I answered both parts of the exam, the Classics part and the Philosophy part. I had taken Philosophy at another institution, Ryerson, and remembered enough of it to actually
have no diffuculty in answering Dr. Weintraub's questions as well as those of my "home room" prof.

This, of course, weakened my overall mark; but if I were to fail, bigod, I would at least show Dr. Weintraub (a prof I never had) that I knew something about philosophy.

So after the boring section on the reforms of Kleisthenes, following the real estate grabs of the tyrant Pisestrates
(much like the mischief of today) I went back, for some reason to the section on Philosophy 101, not realizing that I did not have to do this.
Nervousness and the hangover that screamed to God.

"What is a syllogism?"

Well, I'd spent a lot of time in the Air Force, and it was certainly a phrase I wanted to build some humour on.

But, straight. Think straight:
"A syllogism," I had answered, "is a trio of proposisitons. Viz,' Socrates is a man. Socrates is wise. Therefore, all men are wise.'"

Nah, that's Sophist logic-chopping. I had to try another way. Let's see now... "The whole is greater than the part; therefore all wholes are greater than the part."
This brought me back to barrack room humour. I could just imagine old Plato saying this, adding, perhaps, "Now bend over, kid."

Oh beware of us late bloomers. Donus nus. Sumus fornicatus. "Give it to us. We'll f*ck it up!."

It is small wonder that we mature students would get our degrees and then stumble from one disaster to another
because we never did get our basics down in high school, especially the math, which as graduates of Trinity, we would eventually have to teach. (Trinity was like high school but three times as hard).

But beyond high school, there was something else. There was Kierkegaard, and Wittgenstein.

Kierkegaard: The only thing between the way you are and nothingness is language.

Wittgenstein: But what are words? What are sentences? A sentence is a word picture. Let us now examine the picture.
Wittgenstein seemed to undermine language itself. And underneath it all-- nothingness. Sartre?

Well, I did know that Wittgenstaein, for all of his philosophy, was a pretty salty guy and a veteran of the army himself.
I liked his other quote:
"F*ck and live. Suck and die!"
Now that was closer to modern times, but it could not stand up today; maybe that's why Wittgenstein eventually withdrew the quote. Said he didn't write it. But I know that old Ludwig once had a homosexual lover and that sure has hell would have made him more thoughtful than he already was. But he did marry and have children.

But still, like many of us, something of a flake.

I began to wonder, as my hangover cleared up, what it actually was that separated a Bill Clinton, Rhodes Scholar from the the solitary scientist, the bookworm, who, usually a complete failure, suceeds nevertheless because no one was watching him down there among the fruit flies and the bunsen burners.
A Rhodes scholar somehow gets it. He take science as a continuing inquiry, always adding the new.
He gets into public life and is always ahead of the pack. There is something he instinctively knows about learning, about life.
Well, old Wittgenstein again. Figure and foreground. Perspective. Without it, you are back down there with the fruit flies--unless, of course you're Dr. Davi Suzuki.

I drew a C+ on that exam. Just enough to pass.

But I had discovered, somehow, the back of my brain.

Being and nothingnes.

I had to be.

I just had to be.

And if not, there was always the drinking, which worked every time, and in your euphoria you went back to the Romans. In vino, veritas.
It's just getting that paperwork. Without it, you are just a self-taught fool, who, more often than not, has a fool for a teacher.
If I failed at Trinity, I would just be another drinker and thoughtful masturbator.

But not like Ludwig.
He had the paperwork.
But I suspect he was also also a drinker and masturbator. Had to be. He was a man.

Problems are sometimes resolved by humour.
"What did you get?" asked my editor at work.
"A 'C'".
"Ah well. It's a pass.
"Do you think it's going to make you write better?"
The giggle of reason.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Are writers "Dickheads"?

"All writers are dickheads," the hitchhiker was saying to me.
"They got this monomania, this obsession; they go on scribbling while the world around them seems to collapse--and they won't stop doing it. It's the words, the words, the beautiful words."

The hictchhiker's own words had a strange truth.
I myself was in the middle of a divorce, but writing a novel all the same, I had just left a workshop where they were producing models of Boeing 747's for airline displays (I was hoping to sell this business story to the Toronto Star), my head was way in the clouds, and I was somehow sleepwalking while my old life and family were collapsing all around me.
So I wasn't D.H. as in D.H. Lawrence--but another kind of D.H.
D.H. as in DickHead?

Still, I was the guy in the driver's seat and my hitchhiker had been picked up on Yonge Street, steps away from the court house. Probably a felon.
Yet, strangely, it is the outlaw and the thief who seems to have a better grasp on life than the man of letters, the dandy, the precious one, God's chosen.
I was so reminded of William . Selkirk, stranded for years and years on a desert island talking to Daniel Defoe, fancy man of letters and probably thinking to himself, "This dandy is a dickhead," while Defoe couldn't wait to get home and produce Robinson Crusoe, one of the masterpieces of modern times. Somebody's gotta write your story. Certainly your obituary.
Perhaps my latest conundrum is what set ny hitchhiker off. Could he have decided I was a dickhead when I told him that
I had a girlfriend who was trapped by a pimp in Toronto, that they were taking all her money and that I had to be some kind of white knight to get her out?
Was I inspired by the Desiderata, itself obviously an apochryphal work (added to) but the words having great weight nevertheless..."And yet everywhere the world is full of heroism."

My wife was divorcing me; I was still picking up the kids; I had gotten beautiful mistress whose other life I did not know. I was suddenly in contact with a Damon Runyon world of pimps, priests, police--and all the while I was writing the beautiful novel and trying to sell a business story to the Toronto Star.
And the hitchhiker I'd picked up was calling me a dickhead.
Well, yes, probably. Intellectual monster in a turtleneck sweater, that was me.

We had, however, both of us, forgotten theprogress of time, which is unrelenting and dicky in its own way. It has no sense of humour and you couldn't stop it. Sort of like the Iraq war.
So I dropped my hitchhiker off in Toronto, went down to the Star--and would you believe it?--sold the story.
My hitchhiker went off to the Winchester Hotel in Toronto, stinking pub, and resumed his Damon Runyon life.

The Star had given my model airplane story an enormous spread. I was soon hired to do more, but this is where the dickhead demi-god showed his ugly face. My car had broken down, my Ho mistress had stolen my typewriter, research notes and guitar to feed her drug habit, and I was suddenly reduced to a writer with no tools with another deadline looming in front of me. ...Bad enough being scared stiff over an unexpeced success (can I do it again?), but suddenly the very tools that you need for your work are gone. Dickhead! Why did you ever get involved with that woman?
So I fretted and fumed, tried to rent a typewriter, but hard to do with no money, produced something that looked like a newspaper article, longhand and sent it to a typist. The story ran, but in my despair over circumstances, I had made errors in matters of fact. No sooner had I been hired, than I was fired.

Oh no. Not again. Fired twice by the Star.

Well, while you're not working, you might as well resume work on the novel. Better a busy dickhead than a crazy one.
So I went to work on my beautiful novel and found, suddenly that I had a voice and the thing went well.
I put THE END at the end of it and submitted it to a publisher.
Back came a form letter.
It may as well have read, "Dear Dickhead."

In the middle of the journey of our lives, I came to myself in a dark wood. Not for nothing do pornographers talk about a male's poor performance on the set. "The wood problem".
Intellectually, I had a "wood problem". Dickhead can't seem to get it up and the world knows it. The journalistic and literaryrary establishments certainly knew it. "He just can't get it up any more."

I went down to seedy King Street, just west of the entertainmen district and sat down at the Winchester Hotel for a beer.

And whom should I see but my little Ho drinking with the hitchhiker. Probably after pawning my belongings.

Most blows are not right-crosses, but straight from the chest, the fist out.

Call me a dickhead, you mother....ker

It is an uncomfortable fact, both in life and literare, the all problems are really solved by violence.
Time and chance had led me to this place and now the Dickhead had no choice but to stick to time's script.

Nothing was resolved, it is all open-ended, but for about three days, the dickhead, who had backed out of the bar--began to feel better. Much better.

Yet still a dickhead.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

B.S. Makes the grass grow green. My encounter with Clifford Irving

Have you ever tried writing?
Its impossible.
Talking to Clifford Irving one day, the successful literary flim-flam man, he said, "Don't even try. Let us guys do it.
"When childhood is over, the things of childhood should be put away."
All right if you're Clifford Irving and his spurious biography of Howard Hughts, the Aviator man. ("Who in hell is Clifford Irving? The billionaire Aviator man wanted to know on CBC radio. "I never met the man.")

Ah, how B.S. makes the grass grow green! *

Clifford Irving got his fifteen minutes, and by 2006, more, much more. Howard Hughes died of old age and Hollywood made its successful The Hoax and Aviator movies.
And thought I did once date (only in a prof and student relationship) one of Howard Hughe's old dates--an alumnus of the old Powers Modelling Agency, I only learned of the weirdness of the man. Also the strange authenticity of the aging Powers Model. She really did meet Howard Hughes, and she was to have done a trick.

And the oddity of Clifford Irving.

Powers Modelling Agency used to supply gorgeous whores for the rich and famous who didn't want to go the dangerous way of Hugh grant( who really didn't want to blow his own horn, but well, it happened and the hooker herself became a famous author).
In the case of my Peggy, the Powers hooker, Hughes had done a Leonard Cohen,
"touched her perfect body with his mind",paid her, and sent her home.
Nobody got laid. (For that matter, neither did I with this by-now matronly Powers model...but how close we get to the mystiique of the rich and famous...Damn, I was meeting everybody at the age of 29 and I neither realized my good luck-- or was just too young and stupid to realize that when it came to my career, I was already there).
I too had sent the aging Model home...At least I had that in common with Howard Hughes. Success had made me something of an eccentric something of a young prick; the knowledgeof too many women had made me spoiled, and I was one rat with women...Comes from finishing a novel at 28 and pulling so far ahead of the pack that your contemporaries were still doing bush notes out of East Jesus, Ontario and you were already in the Ivy League--or at least on the edges of a fellowship at Stanford with Wallace Stegner, the famed teacher of writing.

But Clifford Irving said "when childhood is over, the things of childhood should be put away."

Was writing mere child's play? Shouldn't we all get a job, a real job?

Well, what was Clifford Irving's job, really?

To write succesful novels, autobiographies, spurious profiles on people he had never met? And the smash hit movie, with Richard Gere, The Hoax, which made Mr. Irving doubly famous?

Whose childhood, whose profession?

"Songs for aging children come", Joni Mitchell used to sing.
Ah well.
"Aging children, I am one."

So Clifford Irving was telling me to give up and go back to my wife.

He was probably right.

But then for the next thirty years, I would be back there in suburbia, teaching students how to parse sentences, clipping my toenails at night and watch my poor wife grow cellulite and consider me crashing bore. "So where's the Great Canadian Novel, baby?"

Well, I did come back with what I thought was the Great Canadian Novel, Light Over Newmarket. It did go a long way, but I blew the money, like a writer, like a child.

I seem to be dodging a lot of coffins these days.
And yet, strangely, childhood is not really over, neither have I put away the toys.

A writer, they say, should be child-like, but not childish.

How childish I had been in my late twenties and how long it takes to, uh, mature.



* The 1970's Howard Hughes hoax, committed by Clifford Irving, or the "Hitler diaries," scandal, which were published by the German magazine "Stern," in the early 1980's-- the world has not seen such a mega scam.

Clifford Irving almost got away with it. Exactly 35 years ago, his sham autobiography of Howard Hughes nearly made it into bookstores before the reclusive billionaire granted a rare press conference (via telephone) in which he claimed never to have met Irving, let alone participated in the marathon interview sessions upon which the book was said to be based. The game was up. Irving, his wife, Edith, and his co-conspirator, Richard Suskind, all pleaded guilty to fraud and served jail sentences of varying lengths. Egg-faced publisher McGraw-Hill stopped the presses, and The Autobiography of Howard Hughes retreated into myth. (Today, portions of the book can be downloaded from Irving’s Web site, Those events were recounted by the author in his 1981 memoir The Hoax, which has now been adapted into a feature film directed by Lasse Hallström and starring Richard Gere as Irving and Alfred Molina as Suskind. But as Irving himself cautioned when I spoke to him recently from his Aspen home, when it comes to Hollywood movies, seeing isn’t necessarily believing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Uncle Tommy Was a Commie

The freelance writing is not going all that well, the bank account dwindles fast.
I told myself I would write at least 800 words a day, but all I can come up with his shit tlike this:

"I'm so glad you're not a Communist, Ivan" the lady named Forrestal gushed one day in my creative writing class.
She was the wife of the board of directors at Seneca College and one mention from me of the "dance of the dialectic" or somesuch would have led me straight to the welfare rolls. Don't want no commies working at the college, especially when one part of the beatiful stonework preserve had been reserved for busines conventions and another part for a golf course. Wilderness at the back.
We were all here because of development, development and the Florentine princes that run our region had to be ensured there were no pinko commie faggots on faculty. There was no House of un-Canadian activities, of course, but it was understood that pinkos were not welcome, unless, of course, you visited China as an exchange teacher now and again. Business is business! And in the case of the Chinese visits, monkey business!

Square peg in a round hole. A teacher of writing who was not only bourgeois, but a damn good bourgeois, no fan of Ayn Rand but no stranger to Karl Marx, whose major premise seemed to be, "Damn all your philosophy, history and classical economics. The world just doesn't have enough to eat!"

And: The only thing worth writing about is how bad it feels to be down and out.

Oh I might as well say it on. I was a closet Marxist.
Oh sure, I had all the trappings, the exurban Victorian clunker of a house in the exurbs, two south-seas vacations every winter, the 2.3 required beautiful children of "the nuclear familiy", the intelligent wife and really fine threads leaning toward velour tops and brushed jeans. Shod in $100 Wallabees.

Yet all my writing had to do with the maintenance of swimming pools, the fast, deadly rubber of bridge and my travails on putting up a deck on my Lake Simcoe cottage.

I had to gain some real experience in life. I had to go down to the centre of the edifice. I had to write about being down and out. I had to become a bum.

This is fairly easily done.
In a society where you can lose everything overnight, the quitting of a job soon leads to a dwindling bank account, bad sexual performance (you are now unemployed), people dropping you socially and a wife who wants to argue.

So you do a Siddhartha, that other fool, and wander, Ghandi-like to all the hell holes of the earth in hopes of enlightenment, at least enlightenment as a writer.

Sure wish I'd never gone.

Kinky sex in strange beds.
Divorce lawyers.
Wife clamoring for support.
Shotgun-totin' husbands.

Being so broke that no woman would have you, your poor abused sexual organs shrunk to the size of walnuts, and then, only then will there rise an Isis beside the dumpster who will get it all back for you. Aha.
Approaching a landing pad in the underworld.

But then you go down deeper, really down this time, uncomfortably close to that sewer pipe of the universe.
This is where you finally falter and yell for rescue.

The book? The manuscript you had intended to produce? No time. No time. Too busy surviving.

And then you wake up in the morning realizing that Maybe Karl Marx should have gotten a job, and perhaps
Yeshua should have married Miriam and been a good Jewish boy like everybody else.

Yet why do I begin so many short stories with a lift out of the Talmud:

"Life lays down strange paths for men to tread upon in the dark"

Heaven forbid I should have come across an ass' bridge that made me think that all the world's great men were assholes.
And Karl Marx too?

"Yes, and Karl Marx too," said Mrs. Forrestall as she got into her Cadillac.
But her parking lights had not gone off automatically and she needed a battery boost.

From me.
There just happened to be a battery in the dumpster.
Inside a blue box


Whoops, I did it again (Sorry Britney).
Instead of writing for money, I got no money.
And ain't it grand.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Writing about writing--and other crazymaking processes

Blogging about the actual practice of writing is somehow dangerous.
It's like watching your fingers while you type; damn sure you'll get typos and strikeovers.

I notice E. A. Monroe has wisely pulled back on her blog so she could do some serious cutting on her submission to an Amazon contest.

Writing about writing, however, seems to bother sometime correspondent Sela Carsen not a whit.
She blogs and she publishes.

Well, I'm not going to write about writing.
It is a mysterious, somewhat wasting process. Who was it who said, "Writing? Just open up a vein and bleed."

So I think I'm going to "bleed" for a while.

So easy to blog.

So difficult to actually write.

Seems lately, in this flu season, everybody's coming down with something, certainly Seasonally Affected Disorder (SAD?).

I think of Hippocrates, the original scientifc doctor:

"Life is short, art is long. Healing difficult."

I am opting for a long life, and, hopefully, long art.

Hope it all works. There is something so therapeutic in picking up an old trade and typing, typing, typing madly.


Thursday, December 06, 2007

The life of P-Ivan

How easy it is to imitate the actions of the tiger. The Life of Pi lifted from another author?...
Dick Beddoes, famed sportswriter from the Globe and Mail fired for "stealing" from Russell Baker of the New York Times?
My former drinking buddy, Clifford Irving, saying he had met Howard Hughes and then having written a book about it?
(The late H.H. went on Canadian TV to say he'd never met Clifford Irving and had only heard about him through another spoofy book titled, "I swatted Flies for Howard Hughes".)...I forget what Clifford Irving said about Hughes, but I do remember him as a wonderful, intelligent companion, even if he did stutter a bit when drinking.
Clifford then went on to teaching fiction at the Instituto Allende, Mexico,where I had been teaching nonfiction.
(I told the faculty Clifford was a good choice, as he was known to spin a pretty good yarn. Heh).

Imitating the actions of the tiger.
I got to know a writer named Bob Sommerlott, picked his brains about "The Institutional Novel", got on the trail of Ken Kesey but he was already dead at that raiload siding.
Next think I knew, I thought I was Ken Kesey and wrote my own novel of madness and institutionalization, especially Big Nurse.

Imitating the actions of the tiger.

Well, a tale out of school:
One short story, your own, can sometimes get you a pretty good spot in a slick magazine, or even the Toronto Star, where someone had noticed my fiction.
But that initial performance is hard to match. So you spend your time in the archives, in front of the TV and at the movies, hoping to get some of your original magic back....Damn. It seems to work best when you imitate the actions of Russell Baker, the Sunday Times columnist. No wonder Dick Beddoes got fired. He was imitating the best.
Who doesn't like stories like that of the trailer park family, whose son, having just gotten his driver's licence, asks if he can have the ignition keys to the house for a Saturday night date.

Imitating the actions of the tiger.

For years I tinkered with the typeweriter Ernest Hemingay was reputed to use at the Star.
And thinking of Superman, also a Toronto Star product, I seriously thought of investing in a cape.

"Come down to earth," said Patrick McNenly, a former Typhoon pilot during D-Day.
"You are becoming far too arty;
"Join the Conserfative Party.
"Van Gogh-style paintings can be seen in all the madhouses. How sincerely do you wish to be a nut?"

Ah, imittating the actions of the tiger.
Said my editor at Starweek Magazine:
"You write-- or try to write-- like Hemingway. This isn't convincing, coming from a guy five-eight with eyes that tend to fix."
I took over his job, but was soon caught for imitating the actions of another tiger--tigress really--who did a bang-up job on witches in Ireland and I tried to follow suit. I used to much of her material.
Imitating the actions of the tigress this time.

I finally produced a book that was really my own.
The work was largely greeted with a yawn.

Until I found a Bootleg copy of my "The Black Icon" in a library.


Somebody is imitating me.

But like the Starweek editor had been telling me, "You're no tiger, you're a pussycat."

Yet I suspect it was he who had copied my work.

One night, in a bar, while possibly feeling guilty and vulnerable, he pointed to me, like a cop. "There is the plagiarist for you!"

There was almost a drumroll as everybody waited for my response.

After all, this was Ivan, famous writer. He had been to schools, was greatly known for repartee.

For some reason, I found myself imitating the actions of Henry Miller.

"F*ck off," I had said.


Monday, December 03, 2007

Lucifer as scapegoat

The column will be an example of professionalism.
The column will be proof copy, not a word wasted.
The column wil deal with matters large and small, though the column itself will be tiny, almost transfinite, and capable of pointing the reader to larger works where fine points could be argued.
The column was inspired by George Boole, who figured out all the ways a person can think, long before Microsoft.
The column is you.
We are jogging together.
Inside this computer.
Rah Rah Rah
All things come from God.
But I don't think, Mircrosoft.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

I finally found a publisher (Fer to get the Giller Prize)

Stop the presses.

Ivan's immortal letter to the editor of the Era-Banner (Newmarket)
has been nominated for the Giller. :)

The letter has to do with garbage, and in fact, it is garbage. LOL

Success is your name in print I say!

Difficulties create art, whoever the hell Art is!

Typical Canadian response. "I am so angry I'm going to write a letter to the editor!"

So I did.

And here she be:

Letters to the Editor
Dec 01, 2007 12:42 AM

Re: Halton court case put off to ’08, Nov. 22.

Hooray for Newmarket Mayor Tony Van Bynen for finally resolving, along with council, to “put an end to the serious and ongoing impact to Newmarket residents and businesses as a result of the offensive and adverse off-site odours from the operations and activities of Halton Recycling”.

Talking to the mayor recently, he told me he was putting “local matters” first and it’s about time.

It’s obvious they didn’t want Halton in Toronto, where the waste is from.

Ivan Prokopchuk

Oh what immortal prose.
I think I'm going to frame it. LOL.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Stupid Blogger and Stupid Google and Stupid Darwin

My intention with this blog is to see if I can finally break through and "goose" both Google and Blogger to at last allow me to comment in my own comment space. So far, I've been going "anonymous" in my own blog.
This is a drag.
If I were to blog for a living (and sometimes I do), a sticky blog site would surely drive me to the poorhouse.

Already in the poorhouse, I will nevetheless sally forth on this new blog entry.

I have been watching, again and again, documentaries on Evolution vs Intelligent design.
(Onward Christian soldiers?).
What is entirely missing in the debate is that right now, the same people have what seems a monopoly on Paleontology: The Darwinists.

"Bull roar!" roared my late uncle, Dave Smith, a former film diretor for Audubon.

"Men came down from space. They had their lunch....Then the sandwiches evolved into life, and ultimately, into us.
"We evolved from sandwiches!


Wednesday, November 28, 2007


The situation has become critical.

I have somehow totally nuked the left ( analytical side) of my brain.

Comes from too much of what may be laughingly called self expression.

I believe that so-called "creative work" is done by the right side of the brain.
This has thoroughly begaffled the high-seated "all in control" left side of my brain.
"Computer brain", the reptilian part that tells you how to get home--has taken right over.

Never mind the math, "computer brain" was saying. Make your mental connection through words, and words alone.
I have lost all my math ability and what small grasp I had on technology. ..(The great Einstein, of course, would say that what I had produced was "mere literature", and he would be right.
"Doctor of literature"...And my shrinking clientele of "students" is wondering if I could doctor anybody's literature. I am positive one of my poets is going to sue me for malpractice and may go so far as to even push to have my poetic licence revoked!

I have always, in my idleness liked to read up on he workings of he human brain.
The brain, when fed a conundrum, likes to close the problem up, by hook or by crook, whether it has found the right anwer or not. We are impatient with problems--nobody likes problems-- and sometimes the brain supplies a quasi-solution, which is no solution at all...(Like forget E=MC2...Einstein f*cked his sister- in- law! Oh that mischievous right-side brain!)

It all leads to a conundrum.
Conundrum. Now there is a 35-cent word!

Let me try to explain.
Says "Sean Connery" in an SNL routine, "A conundrum is like a problem. I will try to explain the meaning of the word to you..."
"Aw forget it. Your mother is a whore! "

Anyway, conundrums.
I got the conundrums.

Rejected once too often in my bid to have my Light Over Newmarket novel republished, I realized that they had not sent back my manuscript last time around and I went to the local library to see if I could find the actual printed book. Things look better in print, so I would reread the book and answer to myself once and for ll whether the work was any good. I must admit it was kind of a gas to see old Ivan listed in the fiction section; it was less of a gas to see that the work was shot through with mistakes and typos. Ah well...editors are supposed to look after that sort of thing...I had been my own editor of my own publishing company.
There was another book of mine in the library, The Hat People.
Like an aging starlet, I looked over this old work.

Hey. Things look better in print. The Hat People, though published small, eleven years ago, seemed right in the middle of today, the post 911 paranoia, the sense of the absurd, as in the tasering incident at Vancouver Interational Airport. And the arrrogance of officialdom as the RCMP tries to sweep the case under the carpet.

Oh watch out world. I am going to reissue THE HAT PEOPLE and bring the house down.

Yeah, sure.
Anyway, if you're interested at all, you can click onto THE HAT PEOPLE, top right of this very page.

Son of a gun. I seemed to have been better writer thirty years ago.
Or so I tell myself.
Damn that Sean Connery.
My mother is...?


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Newfoundlanders were created by God to save besotted Ontarians

Correspondent Josie has said, while putting together her Christamas gift list, "Tell me a story."

I was utterly charmed. Does a cat have a tail? Does politically minded TomCat-- who visits here--have a beef against George Bush? Does Ivan have a story?
Well, yes I do, but, as usual, it has to do with being a lunk, punk and drunk.

Like many another lunk, punk and drunk, I went back to the vinyards of an old job where a fine Down-Easter, my fomer boss, greeted me warmly and asked how things were going.
I really think downEasters, especially Newfoundlanders, were sent by God to Canada so they could look after all us fools and drunks.

Not too much had changed in six years; the fine furniture factory was busy and it happened to be a payday.
I was suddenly, somehow, in a parallel universe.
Though just visiting, I sort of lined up anyway, almost by habit "fer to get my pay. "

"What are you doing in the pay line-up? the old foreman wanted to know. "You don't work here any more."
I sniggered a bit. "Just trying to get my groove back. ..Tell you what I tried to do for money yesterday... stuck a wad of chewing gum to the bottom of my sole just in case somebody drops a twenty on the floor of the Tim Hortons...It didn't work.
Down and out in Newmarket."

"Sounds like you got a problem, Trapper," the old boss said, plulling out his wallet and laying a crisp 50-dollar bill in the palm of my shaking hand.
This is the way down-Easters are. They will literally give you the shirt off their backs. And when you try to pay them back, they respond with a goodnatured "f*ck-off."
I hadn't worked in the cabinet maker's shop in years.
Collected my pay anyway.

God does indeed look after fools and drunks.

And now I've got this terrible hangover and the truth has finally hit me.

Oh Rowdyman.

Saved by the Newf.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Funky chicken crowned by oakleaves

He had been ambushed on the way to his office by two fourteen-year-old girls who had knocked him down, playfully They had rolled him over and over, spreading falltime leaves all over his shirt and hair.

He did finally stand up an yell at them, but he found the the exercise rather pleasing, despite the slightly illegal cast of it all. It wasn't so much that he was a masher. The little chicklets had mashed him.

How nice it was to be a published poet. And right in his home town, in a publication sanctioned by the Town of Newmarket, with lots of ads. Write for money, and you will get no money, but write for ads, well, there will be money aplenty along the way.
And you'll have fourteen-year-old groupies who will want to shower you with maple leaves and lay crinkly oakleaf laurel on you.
Nice to have stuff published right in your home town, sanctioned by a meeting of council and cheques for your work signed by the mayor. It ain't New York, but it'll do, it'll do.

People meet you on the street, recognize you. Seem to tip their hats.
So it was all worth it?

Well, not quite. There was, after all the letter of rejection on your novel.

Dear Ivan,

After careful consideration, we find that your work does not match our current list of authors.
We wish you luck in sending your work to other publishers.


Just when everything was going great guns. The fly in the ointment.

I had sent the novel outline more or less on a whim, just to get the synopsis out of the drawer, where it had been moldering for some time.
And now, my hair still full of leaves, I get this.

I thought it was supposed to work backwards--hero out in the world, arsehole in your own home town.

Nope. Hero in Newmarket, but arsehole in Toronto.

Well, I should have been getting used to it.

At he college, they called me Doctor.

At the Mad Hatter pub, they called me arsehole.

Oh, if only once, only once, would I have it both ways.

But such ambivalence probably comes from the mother, who was a control freak and a wielder of really good sticks.
"I am doing this for your own good. I am showing you what to expect in the world."

Well, I suppose in her own twisted way she was right. The world, in spite of all your accomplishments, can slap you right in the face.

Ah, but how nice it was to roll in the leaves, to finally become a published poet.
And all of it probably from the fact that the lady publisher was sweet on you.

What got her sweet on you?

Well, here is the poem:

He saw the teardrop on the rose
And again he saw the teardrop on a rose
And he knew he could never melt the teardrop
And he knew this was already the end.
So he kissed the face of the evening wife
As he had kissed it before, in all its varying forms
And again said hello to the precipice of silence
A precipice of silence
For his eighteen months of loving.
The Queen of Swords is crossed over
And all the king's horses and all the king's men
Are trying to get her together again
Like me
To no avail.
Gigolo and Gigolet
This side of the Lake of Mutilation
Strike a match
And the hotel burns.
There is only this path of silence
As we dump our gods
And become like them.

My publisher lady was going through a divorce, and she especially like the line "As we dump our gods
And become like them."

Four times did I show that poem to ladies and four times they asked me if I wanted to get laid (not counting the fourteen-year--olds, for the policeman was not far behind.

Want to get laid?

Get a poem published large.

But the rejection of your actual novel, makes you, sort-of--chicken.
I know the husbands of all the ladies.
And fourteen-year-olds usually bring policemen, not too far behind.
Ah, the Girl with the Curl.
When she was good, she was very good
When she was bad
She was horrid.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Loafers in a Dangerous Clime

I kind of like Mark's (The Walking Man's) writing when in between his prescribed painkillers, he seems to get these feelings of being able to see around corners, the sense that there is a hidden dimension to life which is quite invisible as we go about our daily routines.

Wired on my own drugs, mostly legal, I sometimes come to the following intimations:

Your brain is a creature.

It is something of a crisis manager. It works on signals of order/disorder.
When disorder affects it, it loads something like an oldfashioned Roman catapult and kicks at the disorder.
("Kick at the darkness till it bleeds some light"--Bruce Cockburn).

Your brain, with the right drugs, will hear the running tap in your apartment. When the faucet drips, drips, there is order.
But when I starts to run in a small stream, it's disorder.

(Obviously, I don't get out enough).

There is disorder in my life, and probably your life.

This is the time of the full moon. Everything is in disorder, from your stubbing your toe agains the toilet bowl in the morning to the sure inability to tie shoelaces. There is also the landlord and dunning calls from collection agencies. And the extra fillip is having no cigarettes.
The tap is running free.

How to get the disorder back to order?

The answer, I have deduced in my legal drug state, is four.


This is not pi, neither is it any computer protocol.

Simply four.

And what does it all have to do with?

Doris Lessing, probably.
She just won the Nobel, and I am in great disorder.

I have never like Doris Lessing's writing. I found it somehow tomboyish and jejune, no matter that she is older than I am.
But she did say in one book, a situation of a double triangle, four people, having sex, married, but not to each other while a potential fifth lover is in the wings, "Five into four won't go."

Recently, I have been in a situation like that.

But for this insight Doris Lessing got the Nobel?

I think there is great disorder on the Nobel Committee.
Five into four will indeed not go.

The Nobel Prize swamped by fashionable Global Warmers, people limited in sex and outright communists.
The Nobel Committee seems to fly in the face of truth itself, the preoccupation of any serious novelist.

I long for the days when there was order, when deserving authors got the Nobel, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Jean-Paul Sartre (who did smell a rat early and turned down the prize).

Ah my brain, my poor drug-addled brain. Five into four won't go.

My brain is sensing disorder. It wants to kick the disorder out.

The next Nobel-nominated author will be a conservative, but not the Neocon type.

This I know.

Someone on the committee will say, "Christ is coming."

And the entire committe will wonder what the hell they'd been thinking.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Writing the Unwritable (Or: Three Strikes and You're Out)

You have to be tough in life, to develop a hide that will repel blows, both to the body and to the ego, otherwise you end up crumpled (or crinkled, as my gay friends playfully suggest).

Seems that in the last thirty years, I have met every manner of maniac and weirdo there is to meet, though every now and again I meet a Newfoundlander who stil throws me a curve.

Sample of Newfie humour, usually directed to the Ontario guy's general incompetence:
"You're so stupid, you'd f*ck up the Lord's prayer--if you knew it."

And: "My mom was too poor, so me auntie had me."

But deep down, when push comes to shove, it is the Newfie I would rely on both for friendship and a sense of humour that goes beyond ordinary bounds of taste, forget political correctness: "I don't care if it rains or freezes.
"I'm pissed off with the works of Jesus."

A Newfie somehow gets you back to sanity, even if he does it like a chiropractor--by snapping your spine.
Humour in a sacriligeous vein. They been here 400 years, most of it hard luck and they seem to know how to spit into the very jaws of Moby Dick. And all the while just hankerin' to be back on the boats, that Squid-jiggin' ground. Up and down the waves, the only life worth living. Or dying for.

So it was the Newfies that brought me back to sanity after meeting a series of real assholes, who ragged me, bagged me, and darn near shagged me.

Thirty years ago, I lost wife, money, kids, jockstrap and sanity when I went off to Mexico to write a novel, coming back with a hypoglacemic girlfriend from California whom nobody liked, though she was the spit image of a young
Natalie Wood and had had enough therapy, enough belief in pleasure as therapy to put up with my demented demands.
Was I happy with the sylph?
No, no, I had to do more: I had to fall down all the way. All the way to Hades, where I would meet some real assholes, who would come into my house, screw my wife, violate my dog and wreck all the furniture.
Still have that middleclass ennui, Bunky? Phone Ivan. He'll introduce you to some real assholes.

The first one was Beetlejuice, a PhD from the London School of Economics and later the Juilliard School of music.
I had done some teaching at universitie and liked to refer to the two of us as a pair o' docs.

The relationship was shortlived. We definitely were a paradox.

Sober, Professor Beetlejuice was the very model of sophistication and upperclass reserve, but drunk, he was impossible to be with. A real redneck.

Standing up at the bar of the Grey Goat, the two of us drinking near some black folk, he would make sure he would use the word motherf*cker quite a bit, would say things like "I'm so black, I come soot, man," and and all sorts of irritating things that would drive most black folk crazy.
But these people were civilized and realized that this was coming from a drunk and a hick. There were no fisticuffs.

What a Jekyll-and-Hyde character!

He would introduce me to the Juilliard school of learning jazz, the demonstrating on the fingerboard only once-- never mind the tablature,--and almost by osmosis, you would get it, right down to the encyclopaedic intricacies of the riff. ..Oh how I would loved to have gone to Juilliard!

On the complexities of Hegel, he would explain to me that the whole system was one of intellectual yokes and pulleys, that it was, finally, like a tree upside-down and that all Marxism was based on it. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis. Brilliant bastard.

But when drunk, watch out.

He also had a drug habit.
Thirty four and f*cked.
There was a coke habit I didn't immediately cotton onto and I realized from my snug vantage point of a mere 44, that this guy was gone. Gone at 34, all that brilliance and musical genius notwithstanding.
Thirty-four and fucked.

I saw him one last time, the men in white coats hauling him away. Hauling him away to rehab, from which he never returned. Took a swan dive from the fourth floor of the hospital.

The other "arsehole" I met was more of the Goth girl sort in the cartoon movie, Beetlejuice.

We were in a temporaty employment office, tweny foldaway chair facing a dispatcher who would every so often deride us for being a bunch of losers.
Said the loser next to me, "Oh no. Not a Paki! I'll kill him."

Prisoners and "Pakis", the whole bunch of us, looking for the holy grail, writing, huge, sprawling equations on the washroom wall, footnoted by a cartoon of a bearded Pakistani, gleefully masturbating while saying, "No, my friend, no work today."
The hell of it all was that everybody was a genius, and what in veritable Hades were we all doing here? Seemed like Jean-Paul Sartre territory. NO EXIT.

"We are the runts of this world," my newfound friend was saying. "We are the stunted and the disinherited." Then an unexpected segue:

"How often do you masturbate?"

"I don't I had offered. "I've got a girlfriend."

"Never mind the girlfriend. I didn't ask you that. How often do you masturbate?
"Oh, about four time a week."
"Masturbate or you'll go crazy," said my newfound shrink. What you need is an education.
That evening, we went to a conference on "Sex Education and Information", featuring a Dr. John Rich and authoress June Callwood.
"I like doing It," Ms. Callwood had said. "But I don't understand it very well."
(Ms. Callwood is now dead, but I wonder if she ever really got it. I did at verious times have a drink with her husband, Trent Frayne who seemed a very nice, very attractive man...What was she doing at all those sex conferences?).
Dr. John Rich, who, strangely, after the conference during which time I asked questions, went off in a sailboat and drowned himself.

I had been heretofore convinced t it was we, the runts, the disinherited of the world who had all the bad luck, but apparently not.
Adultery kills. And blasphemy too; you watch!
All that Sex Education and Information was bullshit. They all seemed hellbent on justifying their embroglios.
Like me and my friends.

I finally parted company with the Goth guy, who really was the best of my Damon-Runyon set.

" Stop displaying all that inferiority. You can't be good at everything. I like you.
"You are trying to be Renaissance man, jack of all trades, master of none.

It is time go get out of this hole, to write your Roman à Clef, your book.

Months later, I went to work with the Newfie.

"I have the solution to your problem," said the Newf.

"You will take your manuscript and we'll put it into the dumpster. Together.
Then it will bother you no more."

So we took the laborious typescript to the dumpster, and there we buried it, but not without cermony.
On the edge of the dumpster, the Newfie just up and died.

I am starting to think I am one lucky son of a bitch.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Web Wendy and the Fork in the Road

My friend, whom we'll call Web Wendy, is convinced God is out to get her.

Trouble seems to come from all her encounters, even the most innocent encounters.

Stooping to help a child, she gets hit by a car. The child is unharmed.

"Why me, Lord?"


Ever get that feeling?

Not so bad being hit by the car, but at night, Wendy has these almost- LSD dreams of her floating down the river Styx and the Coyote god from "Roadrunner and the Coyote" is telling her she's going down the sewer pipe of the universe.

Well, there are sewer pipes and there are sewer pipes.

Meet your friendly Pipe Tunnel man, me.

The sewer can be a comforting place, as any Fritz the Cat knows, but since most of you have too much class to actually skin your elbows on the edges of dumpster, or as in the case of bag ladies, stick our toes out through the knee parts of pantyhose, there is really no point in going through all this embarrassing foolishness.

Only crazy folk want to forget everything, logic, bills, respectability-- and just be crazy.
I have slept with many such a woman, and maybe I picked up something through osmosis.

I keep telling people to get in touch with their feelings.
Makes them think I am hip, from L.A.

But here in Newmarket, where it seems every third house downtown is a halfway house, we are inundated with crazy people. Greedy politicians have gotten huge rakeoffs from the Mental Health folks. Take them out of Bedlam and send them to Newmarket! Everybody profits, except for us reasonably sane people scared to death to sit in a park, becaus someone will ask you for sure, "Do you snuff ducks?"

"Sure," I reply. "And I rarely leave a tern unstoned."
This is too much for the crazy bastard and he goes off to find someone else to bother.

Being crazy is an irritant to other people. It is really a condition for which there is no cure. If you're a nut, you might as well at act normal and do the normal things. Shop at the supermarket. Pay your bills. Don't lose your money. You can't be an obvious psycho or freak; people just won't talk to you. Crazy is bad. It exasperates psychiatrists who diagnose you as "asshole" and want to hear no more of your rantings or your staring at the wall looking for symbols.

But being broke is worse than being crazy. This you learn.

Being broke sets of a hyperbole that makes even crazier than when you started out.
You happen to see a day-old loaf of Calabrese bread down there still wrapped, in the dumpster: Well, "Faint heart never made it with a pig!"

Your shiny cross-hatched Adidas soles sticking out of the dumpster, and you unable to get out-- Wrong way, Corrigan!

Crazy is bad. It makes people cluck and not want to talk to you.

Crazy is calling Telecare and being told you're an asshole.

Crazy is really pissing off Dale Carnegie so badly that he punches you in the mouth..

Crazy is dumpster-diving.

And I for one, though I have made money writing aboutdumpster diving--hard research, you undersdand-- nevertheless have had pretty well enough of it.

You can only keep an apprentice down that hole till he starts to stink.

But how to get out of this resounding, deep dumpster?

Well, sane might be hitting your friends for another loan. All right, they are impatient, "Next time you come, bring $600"--but what can you do when you live in a shoe?

What is it you are trying to do?

Discover the nature of God?

Maybe you've got a gift.

Leaving an intolerable situation is a gift. Being a writer is a gift.

Quit your job? Write a novel?

You could try going this way, Web Wendy. Become a professional writer living by her wits. Then your bad karma might leave you alone.
But I don't think you'd want to go.

This way of life might drive you crazy.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Images of Ron Paul and Brian Mulroney on the "New Loonie"

The meaning of your life, your novel, the sudden intimation of where you live and among whom you move-- can lead to almost frightening realizations, especially when a real event brings home what you have been trying to do for the past thirty years.

It took that poor Polish man being tasered and killed at Vancouver International Aiport to finally bring home to me what in hell was the meaning of my second novel, The Hat People. (Mounties wear hats?).

In The Hat People I had a character going through a similar experience not in Vancouver, but the Canada/ U.S. border at Niagara Falls.

Egad. What a flash.
And the first thing you want to do, is to tell somebody about your experience as an Eastern European writer on the Canadian experience.

We writers are such blabbermouths, we talk too much on other people's blogs and we have no patience.

I had to tell somebody about my almost vanished surreal novel whose time may have come at last.

Whom else to tell but poor ususpecting TomCat, who had his own problems about George Bush and the brutal officialdom that is now so much part of the American experience. He had, in a recent blog, blog, a report on
Federal agents raiding the headquarters of a group that produced illegal currency and putting it in circulation. The agents seizing gold, silver and two tons of copper coins featuring Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul.

Oh what an opportunity for me.

I thought I'd put out a teaser (not taser!) on TomCat's blog.

Had to rekindle interest in my Hat People novel somehow.

So here is what I wrote in TomCat's blog:


I can't resist.

Your blog on eliminating the Federal Reserve has led me straight into the first chapter of my novel, The Hat People.

Canadian Loonies.
I wrote my book in 1987, little realizine that I may as well have written it today, twenty years later. The great UFO convention in Toronto recently... And the Canadian "Loony" dollar coin that you cite. (And that poor Polish guy they tasered and killed at Vancouver International Airport).

Oh what the hell.
I'm pimping.

Here are a few paragraphs of my Hat People, finally published in l996.

I thought the book was prophetic, but the critics missed it.

Here we go with a bit of Chapter One of my The Hat People.

Chapter One

The year was rife with signs, entire series of strange occurrences and unlucky portents, events so ominous that the superstitious in Toronto's great European community took immediate alarm and even the less skittish native Protestants began to entertain secret misgivings.

On the westward commute, on the QEW to Hamilton, a new object had appeared in the heavens, an L-shaped chunk of what appeared to be a Corinthian column, larger than the moon and out of all proportion to earthly size. Hardly anyone noticed, in the lengthening days of February that an eclipse had occurred at about the same time, appearing to have the sun setting at five-thirty p.m. instead of a quarter to six.
Only on the eleven o'clock news did our commuters learn that the fiery column, replete with its lower chunk of plinth, was an unexplained phenomenon by the local observatory and someone must have been sleeping at the switch, since the accompanying eclipse hadn't been predicted either. A satellite did pick up the torus, and all agreed, that from some angles, it did look like a hat. Torontonians shrugged and waited for other events.

Something was happening to the money. The paper banknote seemed to change colour every day, while at the Royal Canadian Mint, die makers were already tooling up to turn old American-style quarters and dimes into huge coins resembling Mexican pesos.
Three Conservative political campaigns fell as they rose, giving Bay Street a shudder, and in one Ukrainian Catholic Church, the very pillar of a conservative people, a priest went mad. In the midst of high mass, when the great onion-topped cathedral was crowded to its very doors, the Reverend Moisei Papryka, leaped to the altar, and shouting blasphemies, proceeded to lay violent hands on the Sacred Host, understood by all to be the body and blood of Christ...

Well, well well.
Hoo dat callin'.

In my book, it was a bad time to be a Ukrainian Catholic in a secular Canadian society.
For thirty years, I thought I had erred in risking everything to write my Hat People.
And that is all that I will blurt for now, for it seems I made no mistake at all.
I am glad I wrote the book.
Suffered damnably, lost hair and teeth, but wrote the book.
I sincerely hope other people are luckier in their projects.
But the book, she is writ.
And I am glad.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Oh those horsey Canadian toffs, aping the English aristocracy

My entire left lower jaw has ballooned out like a small squash, a molar has been infected, my hands tremble for a drink and I am out of cigarettes.
Seems to me that now is the time for writing.
...Can't write anything until everything else seems to go to hell.
Doing the masochist tango.
The god wants a price.

Let's see now.

Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party.

Anything to get you going, anything at all.

Well, let's go back to an earlier time,

I had no apartment, no job, even in those times, my teeth were really bad, my mother was dying and that was the time I decided to visit a magazine office, and in there, they were talkin' real slick and smooth about all us exurbanites here fooling with fox hunts and trying to ape the English aristocracy.

I had to become a writer on local "English" sport at once.

An anglicized Ukrainian, taught largely by British dons, I really knew how to put on the dog.

So off I went, to cover the fox hunt in King City.


Man, woman and child, spattered from boot to breakfast chasing some virtual fox, going hellbent for leather.
I guess it is a sign of aristocracy to be around danger, especially large, dangerous animals.

I saw my immigrant father driving along a county road in a pickup truck, and I swear I heard him saying, "Stupid bastard. Want to ride horse through trees. If these aristocrats had any sense they would give all this land up to potatoes!."

Jumping fences. Jumping social classes. I thought of a still earlier time. "You left your class," my rich father-in-law had been saying to me. That was a real jump."
"Never mind, Stewart," I would say. "Deep in my heart of hearts, I am a dyed-in-the wool socialist. People need housing people need food."
Said the father-in-law: "Do you need housing? Do you need food?"
"Then be still, closet socialist."

Well, for some masochistic reason, I put myself in a situation where I had no housing or food.
The idea was to write a novel on all of this.
I did, but had to publish the book at my expense.

Oh, if I'd only stayed in the class I'd grafted onto.

Now here am I, at the tail end of a fox hunt so I could do a story on it.

It was the apple tree that felled me.
Adam in the garden.
Adam in jodhpurs. (I still had them from the old days...I looked serious and little gay. Dada stormtrooper).
What set did I just come in from?

Why, from the horsey toffs of course.

My big Hunter had led me to the apple tree.

One of the biggest tragedies of life is trying to recover your fortune.

I chomped on an apple, and almost choked on it.
Ah, what the hell. A man can always use a bit of Vitamin C.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Distant flowers

I used to think growing flowers was for pansies, so I'd raise some flowers with attitude, like flowering sage and five-foot high marigolds--both were supposed to keep the aphids off my beans and tmatoes. They did. They also grew so tall as to almost chase me back into the house....Probably the high trees around my balcony, causing these plants to reach for the sky. It is the middle of November and the flowers are not wilting from the frost, though I myself fear I am dying a little this autumn. The summer has made me soft; it is wind-whistling time in this stage of my life and crows and ravens are blowing riffs.

At a certain age, you are supposed to have it all together, have life figured out (at precisely the time you have to, uh, go).

But those flowers, those durable flowers. Everything else in my container garden is dead, but the flowers are up there every morning, frost or shine, stabbing up into the murky blue, themselves yellow and blue, like the colours of my old agrarian country. Small wonder Vincent van Gogh was smitten.

I think of an old love.

Perhaps she's a flower, a distant flower
That blooms along the wall of a house

Faint heart never won fair lady, though I was not faint at all.

But love is blind. One step at a time.

I have exhausted all the steps of bravado and daring, and still she would not come.

Perhaps if I sent her a flower, the flower that I grew.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Uber-novelist Norman Mailer Dead at 84

Like many another vain, empty, and bullying body of our time, I have been running for President these last ten years in the privacy of my mind, and it occurs to me that I am less close now than when I began. Defeat has left my nature divided, my sense of timing is eccentric, and I contain within myself the bitter exhaustions of an old man, and the cocky arguments of a bright boy. So I am everything by my proper age of thirty-six, and anger has brought me to the edge of the brutal.

So went the late and great Norman Mailer after being rejected by eight publishing houses following a severe drop in popularity after the thundering success of his The Naked and the Dead.

Rejection builds character, they say, and he finally came out with a beautiful autobiography, which he titled
Advertisements for Myself. Advertisements outsold just about everybody.

Oh to have that kind of panache and skill.

Well, the lucky world has no shortage of material, most of it supplied by Mailer himself.
He was his own heroic character, larger than life, living life large. There is certainly his Armies of the Night to prove it.

Following Mr. Mailer's career, I too wanted to fail grandly, I too wanted to finally come out with "Advertisements for Myself" to vindicate myself, but all I have to show for it are my poor blogs.

So much trouble with my actual novels.

"The day of the novelist is over," Mr. Mailer was supposed to have said before he died. The appetite for novels is gone? It's over?

But Mailer is not over. Not by a long shot.

Novelist, journalist, pamphleteer, clown, you have it all in Norman.

He will live forever.

Friday, November 09, 2007

An American woman in a Canadian parka

On the subject of the American woman, I laboured mightily, and seemed to have produced a mouse. Hell, while on the subject of American women, I had to go to first a lawyer and then a shrink...I was having my own problems as the "slightly older guy" now out of circulation.
The shrink suggested I do the "familiar" for therapy, that is to say, be a journalist again... "You need to get back your focus. Do something you used to do. . That might clear the logjam."
So I thought of my reporter past.

While working at the Toronto Star, I was greatly surprised that it was not Pulitzer authorship that was causing people to read, it was Ann Landers. Viz,

To a woman who was fooling around with her fiance even though his gorgeous secretary had moved in with him, the late Ann Landers chided, "It sounds to me as if the rocks in Jack's head match the holes in yours."
I read other papers for advice to the lovelorn.

Dear Abby was a close second to Ann Landers.
Never mind the crisis in Portuguese Angorra or somewhere. After Ann Landers, everybody was reading Dear Abby in The SUN.

DEAR ABBY: My beautiful wife, “Doreen,” turned 41 a couple of months ago. Since then she has had extra piercings in her ears and has taken to wearing thumb rings, toe rings and ankle bracelets. Yesterday she pierced her navel. I am embarrassed for her. We have a 13-year-old daughter who is also embarrassed for her. How do I tell Doreen she looks silly? -- NOT SO HIP IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR NOT SO HIP: Your wife’s fetish brings new meaning to the term “heavy metal.” It shouldn’t be necessary to give her a lecture. Just walk in carrying a powerful magnet. That should send a message. (Well, Abby might know something about relationships, but she knows nothing at all about metallurgy).

Seems to me that ever since uber-authoress Gail Sheehy married Top Editor Clay Felker, founder of New York magazine, the way out for Americn women seemed to make them more like men--risk taking in their lifestyles, the daring to try the new, the woman astronaut shot off into space.
But largely, for most younger women, it's coming home from the office, cuddling with the the pet, popping open a bottle and taking off your pantyhose and bra to wash in the sink to hang up later. Over the shower curtain.
There will be no looking for Mr. Right tonight. Just too pooped.

But there's always the weekend. Ah, the weekend.
This will be the 72 hours when you'll be on, to actually invite people for your thirtieth birthday. There are, of course, those nagging questions as you hang up your pantyhose: Single woman? Why aren't you married? When do you plan to have kids? And if not soon, then when? Ever? Never?
And to all those questions that will surely come up: "I don't know."

This is a terrible time for women to be thirty.

It is a zany time for women to be forty.
And an even more dangerous time for women just past fifty. The risk-taking. Dare I date a younger man? Have I still got it? Empty nest, and now what? And hubber has got this younger woman. I know this. I know.
It is surely Ann Landers territory and even the monstrous almost- Jerry Springer world of Dear Abby.
In any society, it is assumed that forty percent of women are at least sane.
But the world of svelte superstars, fitness enthusiasts, weigh-loss programs and outright dancing houris is a sure temptation for the level-headed mouseburger of 30 still thinking about the last article by Helen Gurley Brown.
"Face, it," one American woman has told me. "The old way was the best way. Even if you're overweight. Do not play with your physical or emotional health.

"You mean it's back to Home-Ec and looking for Mr. Right?"

This came from a woman lately of NYC. Call her Trish.
She moved to Toronto,where I met her after spending four years in New York at a top-tier investment bank. She frequented A-list hot spots and mingled with the white-collar glitterati. Now here social life consists of a lot of dinners, hanging up her pantyhose in the evening and watching DVD movies." In New York, everybody's single and in Toronto, everybody's married. Half of them have kids."

She decided, finally, to relocate to Vancouver. Different story here. Here she could really extend adolescence. "In Vancouver, people ski, bike, hike--they aren't interested in being in the office till midnight.
And still, when you have that kind of time, you're even more prone to couple up.

Again. Looking for Mr. Right.
She finally found him, but the cad already had a wife and turned out crazier than a half-shagged mink on a sandbar.

Ah well. Back to the drawing board, back to New York. Here, most people were more self-focused--which means they are single longer. It is probably where I belong," Trish said a few years ago. "But face it, Ivan. I am now 31, and still looking for Mr. Right."

Well, if they still dump on you in one city, move to another city.
Trish went back to Toronto, where people are more focused, a tad more traditional. She met serious people.
She is now married to a successful IT guy,who is hardworking and doen't give ver any static, she has a house in the exurbs, has a spanking baby, and has never looked back.
"Mom's way was the best way.
"All the Helen Gurley Browns are wrong."
But Trish still had a career, so did her husband and only the babysitter is in there pitching in for everybody.
"It was not being Hillary Swank, or even Hillary. But it will do. Oh yes, it will do. How long did it take me to wake up?
A second baby has had Trish take a leave of absence while her husband worked.
"The happiness is probably short-termed," Trish admits. Who knows what the future will bring?
"But right now, I'll take it. I'll take it."


Thursday, November 08, 2007

American woman will have to wait

Old Jimmie Rodgers, c. 1939:

Well I'm just as blue as I can be
Since Susette said goodbye to me

My life is just a failure, I see
She won't be my gal no mo' no mo no mo-e

Gonna pack my things in a grip.
Take me a long ocean trip
Out on a great big steam ship.

You ain't gonna see your daddy no mo no mo'e

Ah, another heartbroken Okie.

But this honorary Oakie really needs to take a trip.

I am stuck on my American Woman essay.

Need a change of scene.

Working holiday.

Boarding not a steamship, but a bus. Damn. Had to shoot car.

Have to survive. Need a trip to--wait for it--Hamilton, Ontario...That's like Toledo, Ohio, the rustbelt of Ontario,--but the money is clean.

So Ivan is off to Hamilton, where men are men and, lately, it seems, so are half the women.

This is a shinplaster blog.
Mainly because my shins are raw from being kicked around as a writer in Toronto...but not in Newmarket, Ontario...Start where you stand, I say.


"In the shadow of the pole, I will clasper to my soul..."

Of course, in Hamilton, which is known as "Yakshamayesh City" I will be in the shadow of the Pole... Come to think of it, I used to always get the "Polish mark" at Toronto University: C+

Probably because old lovelife was keeping me from getting sleep.

It was an American woman. My intention is to write an essay on her.

But the American Woman essay will have to wait.

I need to restore my EQ, that is to say, Ethnic Quotient.

Maybe good food will give me the magic to write on the American Woman.

See you all on the weekend.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Canadian Woman!

It is the last quarter of the full moon, but the son-of-a-bitch is still banging the side of my head in the wee hours and only a good stiff shot of malt liquor that brings one to any semblance of ones own self--whatever that may be.

I had intended to do a blog comparing the Canadian woman to her American counterpart, but real writing is hard in coming, so I'll cheat a bit, imitate the great Borges a bit and pretend the blog has already been written and I'll just make reference to it.

A Canadian woman:

She is tall, poised, somehow Victorian at her full age of 29 and she can make labyrinthine objects out of wire, nails and string. Quetzalcoatl Mexican snakes, medieval knights, batiks. She would have liked to have struck out as a serious artist, yet she never did. Secretly, when in her cups and not in possession of her usual presence, her good humour, she had admitted to our friends that she hates her life and her plodding statistician husband and she is going to a psychiatrist. Like many a Toronto area woman, she is nervous, high strung, high on the Darwin scale, but temperamental as a thoroughbred. She is allergic to any number of things. She is sometimes given to fits of compulsive scratching when she's sure people aren't watching and her whole makeup, when her poise is down is that of a tall, lovely woman, the envy of anybody on the block, who is violently uncomfortable inside her own skin.

The young Canadian woman as neurotic?
God help us.

But it is more likely that the writer is turning into a stone whacko.

All the noises we make when we have not done our research, have not produced the actual work, and then try to make Borgesian noises to make up for our hurry to get something into print.
I think we shall now back up and do the actual work.


Sunday, November 04, 2007

My Hard Drive is Korrupt and Kaput.

Good evening.

Seems that ever since I made some domain changes (and joined FaceBook), my computer had been acting up, shutting itself off for no reason at all.

Techie says my hard drive is corrupt (not a new one on me!)

Machine is now in shop.

Will be missing a lot of emails from you wonderful readers--at least in the short run.

What is it with us Quarks?

Half the Quarks sick and the AntiQuark has a corrupt hard drive. LOL.

Hope to see you guys in 72 hours or so--About the same length of leave time as they offer mental health patients who have weekend privileges.

AntiQuark is going mental!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Valley of the Dolls

Trouble with blogger today.

I had intended to tell the story of two women, one Canadian, the other American.
It was to have been an attempt at a trash novel.
What is below is all that blogger would give me.

So here is an attempt at a trash novel, with just the American girl left in.


I hate the word.

It floats like a banner down there among my earliest memories, my father calling me beautiful, "my little doll", my mother showing me off to the architects and painters she was sleeping with. "Isn't she beautiful," they'd say, as if patting me on the head with the word, anxious to go into that bedroom to lock me out.

After the divorce I got to miss my father, really miss him. I would even have put up with him using the word, patronizing me as only father patronize little girls who look like they've walked straight out of a suntan lotion ad, cute, blonde, the bathing suit half pulled off by the cutest puppy, or the healthy little girl face on the jam jar. As I get older, I wonder if the affection of every father for his little girl is always totally honorable. Still, my father and I were very close. I would write him letters; we could exchange little presents. But I was always his beautiful little girl. Even now, when I see him, still trying to make a living with his blueprints and his pencils, a bottle always nearby, he still calls me his little doll, while reaching for a nip when I talk about my latest divorce. Good God, maybe it's all beauty and no brains with me. How could I have stayed with Richard for those long five years? Richard, himself a beautiful man, an actor, though unemployed most of the time and in the last two years cranked up on speed, playing that damn rocksichord day in and day out like a mad phantom in a rock opera. Should have been a musician. But he was too vain. It was his looks that he had put all his eggs in. Until one day it became plain that two Robert Redfords in one Hollywood just wouldn't do. Redford went on to being The Robert Redford and Richard hit the spike.

How is it that we are felled by the very gift that makes us stand out from other people? Puberty hit me like a witches spell. I was given to strange dreams, allergic flashes, a sensitivity that was unbearable. And all around the boys, the men (and women too), "You are so beautiful." Then I'd run off in a storm of tears. What was it with adults? What is it with people even now? How are they so certain that appearance was reality? How is it that no adult really knows what is going on with a child, and all the time the adults so self-possessed, so confident in what they seem to know of the child, and it's all subtle control, a kind of bullying. "You know, you should..." Adults and children may as well belong to different species.

Our family moved in a very fast set. My father, in those days, was a very successful architect, back then in the Bauhaus fifties, where everything worked in terms of squares, of function, before the automobile makers went bananas with their chrome fins, and, some say, masturbation fantasies. My father designed beautiful modular houses back in California. He'd probably gotten the idea from a Middle East village (he would travel far and wide to develop his concepts). California was just right for his designs, the use of open space, terracing, little gardens at various levels, the house resembling a child's Toggle set, squares heaped upon squares, but interlocking in such a way that every room had an open terrace, a view and a separate entrance from outside, so that a number of rooms could be bypassed if you wanted to reach any particular room in a hurry, or if guests wanted to sunbathe or hold a hibachi party.

He was a clever man, my father, but when it came to me, when it came to loving me for something than the adman's image he had of me, he drew a complete blank.

I don't know why we were forever having parties, why all those actors, actresses, other architects and painters were always hanging around the house, my mother sometimes shooing off still-drunken revelers on the day after. I guess it came with my father's success. But it was short-lived. Styles changed. Back splits became the big thing. At first my father refused to compromise, but when he eventually bit the bullet, gave up and tried to survive by appeasing all those contractors. All the beautiful people had gone. He was just another architect, virtually just another draughtsman now. He took to drinking and being abused by my mother. He was a kind, sometimes almost childlike man totally incapable of defending himself against a woman turning bad . Once his career started to slope down, my mother became very good at undermining his confidence.

Mom and apple pie. How right Philip Wylie was those many years ago, when his work was overshadowed by Pearl Harbor and all the FDR patriotism that went with it. "Momism" in America. Mom, the celebrity's wife turned clubwoman. Mom so ensconced in being the answer to the great American question, "Madam, are you a good lay?"--all this booming at you out of the television tube and all the billboards and the bright inside ads on the buses and subways. Lady, are you a good lay?
Well, my mother must have worked very hard at being a good lay; she worked very hard at developing me into a good lay. After her divorce the men would come to see Mom, but they would stay and try to flirt with me.
I had to get out of it all. At seventeen I ran off with the first sympathetic man that came along...

Ah, how fascinated we still are by that old trash novel, Valley of the Dolls....How, in our heart of hearts we'd just love to write a trash novel.

Or is it just me, trying to jump over the moon?