Thursday, February 22, 2007

The loneliness of the long-distance hooker


Holding down two jobs and trying to keep and unhappy hooker happy can take the brain right out of you.

Trouble was, both jobs were writing-related, a one-way thing. Writing and teaching about writing. I had no hobbies save for the unhappy hooker. That and what Irishmen call "the Creature", that is to say, Gibson's Irish Cream.

The hooker was unhappy because of "Marko and Luigi", who, I suppose was her dyarchy of pimps.

It was definitely off-putting to be spending some time with my unhappy hooker while Luigi seemed to be tramping about outside, muttering, in Sicilian, probably, "Not too long Joanne, not too long."

There were days that I supposed, Luigi in his zeal, would become so impatient as to do a Ron Jeremy on old Ivan and have me half-speared before I even finished the business at hand.

Low-rent, no?

"Write about squalor," says Esmee in a J.D. Salinger story.

Squalor would come to visit Ivan. Quite a bit.
Not entirely Ivan's idea.

But Ivan was in a tough creative spot.

There was the newspaper column he had to produce every weekday.

Writing for money. Four-and-a-half typewritten pages every day, not a word less.

I would sometimes have short paragraphs, use lots of white space, make the printer work and put lots of lead in where there were so few words.

The linotype operator, always a gay guy, would entertain me with entire stanzas of The Walrus and the Carpenter, beginning with "You are old (brother Ivan)."
Did this mean I was showing my age, bitch?
He got a laugh out of that.

At least the paper had hired two of my students. One wrote really well; the other took pictures.

But my unhappy hooker wanted in.
In a different way.
The hooker was unhappy because she was really a writer, not a hooker, and the day job she had as cover to keep the constabulary at bay was at Ronald's Printing (now out of business) which was really a daytime house of ill repute.

The printing business was real, very real, there were millions of dollars in TIME Magazine reprintings and miles of advertising flyers. But there was a sub-enclave in the office which very nearly resembled a night-time massage parlor, and all doors seemed to lead to Joanne, in her ONE WAY ONLY glass cage to which happy, singing Italians would come.
They came out even happier, singing, "Oh what a friend we have in Joanne."

I had to "catch- as -catch -can."

Embarrassing to meet Joanne after work, the sweaty Italian still a little heated after his rapture, and everybody trying to act normal.

Sleazy, no?

But the woman could write.

She gave me a story based on her father, a Flower Class Corvette captain during the Second World War.
I was tempted, in my own giddy way, to ask, "Was he a rear admiral?" But the way poor Joanne was walking at the time, I let it ride.

The story was good.

It was about loneliness at sea. A terrible storm. And at about the time the sailor realized who he was, and among whom he moved, the meaning of his life, an answer out of loneliness--that he was swept of the deck, never to be seen again.

How many stories there are of loneliness.

It is, some say, a barometer, your barometer. In a condition of profound loneliness, you are being told something.

What did you do to arrive at this condition of loneliness? Whom did you hurt? What did you do with the money?
Why are you 47 and all alone?
I was forty-seven, and, in the process of going through a divorce. All alone. How did I get this way?
Seems that once you puzzle that out, you may well have touched on the Christ Principle and emerge a new, better person.

But the Sea has not time for solipsism.

It can sweep away the popular and the lonely.

My attraction to the unhappy hooker stemmed from the fact that she used language really well, she was vaguely English with that impossible-to-copy Peterborough accent, she was not writing in her third language as I was, and the stories that came out of her were natural and pure, straight trom the mother tongue. She was a kind of lady Shakespeare without the Elizabethan inflection. She came from Prince Edward County in Ontario, where all the good Canadian writers come from, Toronto be damned.

What is a woman from a good Ontario family doing in her entertainment of Little Sicilians?
And some of them were quite kinky.
Big-booted Italy kicked little Sicily?
The mind boggled.

She said one night at the Grey Goat that she seemed to be in the movie, Naked Lunch.

I took it as a joke, and wondered all the while how director David Cronenberg ever managed to turn an inanimate typewriter into a talking anus.

But it was my poor Joanne who was the talking anus. So many Sicilian construction workers taking up astronomy, looking for Uranus.

The stress of our "relationship".
Hertz rent-a-chick and half the time I had no money. She would accept a new VCR.

And all the while, the two jobs. Newspaper columnist by day and teacher of writing at night.
She would always come to my classes. But there would be the mysterious Marko in the wings. He too, had registered...Just keeping an eye on things.

I had told her, in a moment of honesty, that after reading her material, and noting her excellent poise and elocution when she read her own or other people's stories--that she was a class act, and, quite frankly a better writer than myself.
This gave her a sense of control.

She soon seemed to delve into every aspect of my life, was obsessed with me (as I was now becoming obsessed with her)--and one day, as one of my feature stories appeared in a magazine distributed everywhere, she had complained, "You were doing this story all this time--and you didn't even tell me!"
--So I should reveal every aspect of my thought and writing processes?
Like many another hooker who liked to be wined and dined, she was fast becoming a control freak. Quite a bold one, really. "I know you better than you know yourself."

My relationship with Joanne began to affect the class. They knew.
I had made Joanne my TA, my teaching assistant and she was very good at it, reading each submitted story out loud, no author actually named, just the material discussed...a good way to go; saves the critique group writer some embarrassment if the story reallly clangs.

Afterwards the pub nights. She would show up in something gold lame and shimmering, but always long-sleeved.
Always in long sleeves.

So that was it. She had to stay near her sources, and Marko and Luigi were the sources. "Do this for me, or I will pull your plug."

I was soon a second-hand addict, as she used me as a sounding board, tried to control me, as addicts will often do, while it was her habit that controlled her.

I chose direct intervention. Behind her back.

But she would disapper then, sometimes for three weeks and be the same manic-depressive Joanne.

Like I was fast becoming a manic-depressive Ivan.

I could no longer handle the mind games, to be used as a sounding board by a beautiful addict.

The relationship was getting in the way of my work, of my teaching.

And the Dean caught on to what was going on.

Soon I was out of the college job and the newspaper had just been sold; new editors. Now this job too was going fast.

Suddenly, no job, no girlfriend (funny how quickly they leave when you turn out "no good").

Driving a cab in my loneliness.

Realizing all the while that I had somehow escaped.

The sea wave was benevolent. I had prepared my lifeboat.

40 comments:

H.E.Eigler said...

Wow Ivan, great post! Sometimes being lonely is a much needed escape isn't it? Sometimes we need to be with only ourselves.

Josie said...

Good post, Ivan. I enjoy my solitude. I love socializing with people, but I also crave my solitude.

I have deleted my unattractive picture.

The nose knows.

Josie

ivan said...

Yes, that's the way it seems to be, Heather.

And sharper writers than this one have explored some of the territory, probably out of their own lonelisness.

ivan said...

Wise Josie.

Hey, I got a W. C. Fields nose, red colour and all.
Forget what movie Fields delivered the line (My Little Chickadee?):

"You didn't get that nose from drinking soda pop."

The pictures that I've seen of you
don't seem to show an Ivan nose; kind of a cute one, really.

Josie said...

Wise that I deleted my ugly picture? Gosh, I didn't think it was that ugly...:-)

It snowed here this morning... argh.

Josie

ivan said...

No. Wise in knowing when to be by yourself, like John- Boy, the kid in Little House on the Prairie. People need time to get it all together. That what that old Greek Play-Dough used to say, anyway.

It was "tropical" in Toronto, 40 F, but now it's dropping like a stone and early "March" winds are bowling me over.
Just, when you feel that first delicious hint of spring--back in the freeze again. And those 70 K winds!
Hey, you'd be proud of me:
I woke up this morning without checking to see if my cigarette was drawing properly and my beer breakfast was properly foamed.
Must be the approaching spring and a new attitude! Heh.

Cheers,

Ivan

Josie said...

Hey, Ivan, good for you! You on a health kick?

Josie

ivan said...

p.s. to Josie,

Hey, what is it about women in hats. The young Faye Dunaway drives me crazy.

Hats have a way of really outlining a woman's face.

Got a picture of you in a hat?
Maybe a tam? Heh.

Some of my girl students used to affect tams and long cigarette holders. "I am in a writing class."
Double Heh!

ivan said...

p.p.s.:

"You can leave your hat on!"

(evil grin).

ivan said...

Whoops!

Cross-over in messages.

re health kick.

Yes. I have resumed my walks, though down to 10 miles now with this horrible gale-force wind.

I have developed such a beer belly, become so rutund that a good stiff wind will send me rolling down the street like a barrel.
Exercise, exercise, I say.

Captain Queeg in the Caine Mutiny, exercising his palm with the two little steel ballbearings:
"It was the strawberries...That's where I knew I had them..."
Hah.

ivan said...

E.A. Monroe and Josie and all,

Click onto Heather Eigler's site (above). She has two crackerjack stories up, just published by the Canadian Writers Collective.

I am impressed.

So much talent in these pages--at least on the ladies' part!

Ivan

EA Monroe said...

Oh boy. Since Josie deleted her lovely photo that means I no longer have to post my senior picture!

Did you spend any time in the Darkroom, Ivan? I spent hours in the darkroom, but I was alone -- just me, the red light the camera, developing trays and a whole lot of film! Then later just me and a bucket load of film and a film processor in total darkness. Lonely places are darkrooms! But I always enjoyed it.

ivan said...

Uh-uh, sweetie,
You ain't gettin' off the hook so easily.

I am still scrambling about the attic looking for my grad picture.
...Probably won't be able to find, so I'll see if my son will send me a copy of a portrait I had taken of me at about the time of graduation. Now I've got my poor, busy married, work-raddled kid looking into his attic! It will take about a week.

Photography: Baby, I never got past my F-stop with the the 35mm.
It was mandatory for all journalim students to take photography.
We had to spend darkroom time, and happily, I found someone more adept than myself and we somehow cobbled enough pictures together to make a respectable presentation; weren't for my buddy, I'd never have gotten the diploma--that and really stingent phys-ed--this was the Old School method; all Ryerson students had to swim the length of the pool so many times, or no diploma.

The students from Cameroon got it the worst. They seemed to hate water and would just sort of flounder around.
We'd yell, "Patrice, look our for the hippo!"--And Patrice was suddenly an accomplished swimmer.
...About the closest I got to a hippo was being just about as much as a sinner as The Bishop of Hippo, St. Augustine, who apparently was quite the stick man before he got religion...And one hell of a philosopher!
Me, I was no philosopher. Uh, more of a stick man, but that's all memory now.

Yes, it must have been lonely in the darkroom.
I remember the photographer of our small newspaper appearing just every so often out of his alchemist's den. He would get kind of weird and the chemicals weren't helping his mental state any.

I recall the safe light as being kind of yellow. Mellow yellow.
Yeah, on the whole, to enjoy the experience too.

Ivan

ivan said...

last line should read, on the whole, I got to enjoy the experience too.

Donnetta Lee said...

I, like Josie, enjoy my solitude, when I can get it. I don't seem to get very lonely very often. Of course, I've got hubby and Percy and Princess. I always have Miss Lizzy and that's a for sure deal! So, never get lonely knowing that. I probably felt more lonely when I was young. Glad I'm not there anymore. I enjoyed your story. This is the second time I've seen the picture of the pretty lady. Same lady in both stories? Well, she was pretty. She was smart. Was she one of the sirens? "I have heard the mermaids singing each to each..." Donnetta

ivan said...

Donnetta,

I guess there's a little bit of J. Alfred Prufrock in all of us shot horses. And that's when the sirens seem to come. All my women had seemed to come when I was totally effed -up and broke. They seem to have no use for me when I am rich.

The J. Alfred was actually a shot-up Don Juan.

The photo I had put up twice is actually of a younger Faye Dunaway, but my Loreli was even prettier, if you can believe it; she was fond of poplin raincoats and gloves. And she had the body of an idyll.

Miss S was very smart, yes, and very pretty. She was somehow my dopppelganger--female apparition of Ivan.
Maybe she was the one who brought it all back on me, "'Harry the rat with women' and now it's time for you to pay, MoFo!"
I was suddenly the WOMAN in the relationship and all that I'd dished out in the past I how had to take.
Guess she was some sort of avatar, avenging demon for all the women one had deceived and exploited.

Make a long story short:
I saw myself smarter than most women, but, as I found out, not ALL women. I had met my match.
(I wish I had read more of Whitney Strieber--I would have caught on earlier).

In the last count, I did a Samson,
brought down the whorehouse walls, incarcerated her pimp and gave the poor Whore of Babylon quite a bit of grief.
Don't know why I chose to cut the Gordian knot.
There is a strong possibility that Miss S.'s intentions were good, that she had tried to help me, saw me as incompetent and used her beauty and brains to try to lift me up.
But ego and insecurity got in the way, her ego and mine and the damn thing ended in a stand-off.

That which doesn't kill you doesn't necessarily make you stronger: You learn to respect that vituperative power, and you hope, by Heaven, that you never come across it/her again.

Sean Ferrell said...

Great post.

ivan said...

Thank you Sean,

I was intrigued by your earlier work, "The Phrenoogy Collection", where you have a professor of phrenology really wanting to have an affair with a student.

I had something similar with my professor of physics who went out looking for the theory of everything and ending up in a strange bed. The tome is "Light Over Newmarket", and is clickable above.

Ivan

H.E.Eigler said...

Just wanted to say thanks for the very nice comments yesterday Ivan. Your support means a lot to me.

((blows a kiss that is swept to Ontario on a Chinook wind and lands squarely on the Profs cheek))

JM said...

Ivan:

What a brilliant piece.
(I ought to know; I'm from Prince Edward County)

ivan said...

Why thank you, Heather.

Like a gander, suddenly washed down and made to look good, I'm all feathers!

ivan said...

jm,

I know you're from Prince Edward County. And you write better'n anybody.

Ivan

EA Monroe said...

Ivan, let's party over at Josie's place since she's out of town for the weekend.

I enjoyed this piece about Joanne and Ronald's Printing. ~Liz

ivan said...

Thans Liz,

Josie's away and the mice will play.

We'll put on Cheech and Chong and that Blind Melon Chitlin routine.

But Josie's pretty hip. She may be a fan of Cheech and Chong.
I think Chong is from Vancouver.

But that Blind Melon--even a greater star than William Hung.

"Joanne" phoned me a few years ago.
She was working in a community called Bear Skin, Northwest Territories.
Bear Skin?
Captured by crazed Inuits for sure!

Donnetta Lee said...

Oh, it is Faye, isn't it? Donnetta

EA Monroe said...

The Galatic Empire partymongers are on the loose in Josie's cupboard!

ivan said...

Yep. It's Faye.

Bonnie herself.

I have met some movie stars, but unfortunately, Faye wasn't one of them.
Now she's my age. Egad!

ivan said...

Hey, this might be a wild galactic party.
There's a TeleTubby in the cellar.
He's found Josie's private stock!

I think Twinkey really loves chocolate.

EA Monroe said...

Hahahahahahahahahaha!
Is this like JR's B&E??
Nothing like Josie's private stash!! No wonder we're seeing red-eyed Teletubbys! Err... I mean Klingon Taxmen. I think it was the Taxman that got James Goodman, too.

ivan said...

Along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip.

ivan said...

Hey, this is going from sublime to spacey.
And Josie, if she were here, would probably ask, "What else is new?"

ivan said...

Uh-oh.

Austin City Limits coming on.

Might learn some cool guitar riffs.

Beam me up, Scotty Moore!

EA Monroe said...

Good night, Ivan! Donnetta and I are under a tornado watch/warnings tonight so I better shut down. Just roll me into the closet. We might wake up in Kansas.

Enjoy the music!~Liz

ivan said...

G'night Liz, Donnetta and all.

JR's Thumbprints said...

That's one helluva story Ivan! I couldn't read it fast enough. I've always been morbidly fascinated with other folk's down-and-out stories. Is there any type of follow up to this? I mean, as far as where the writer/hooker is?

ivan said...

Thanks J.R.

"Joanne" ended up in a houseful of pimps.

I tried to do a rescue number, but was running blind; there was so much going on that I couldn't see. I did see "Joanne" carted around in a BMW or a limo here and there, got some licence numbers, tracked her down to a House of the Rising Sun in Toronto, found one of the pimps, beat him up, only to find that "Joanne" had married him, for whatever reason. Convenience? Cover-up? Just to get rid of me?

Anyway, doing my "Two silhouettes on the shade" outside the Ho-house, I caught the view of Joanne
giggling a bit at the pimp's black eye.
...Hell of a thing when you live inside your own novel, whose title turned out to be "The Fire In Bradford" (It is listed on my web just above).

Stayed on the trail anyway, managed to somehow break them up, but still, Joanne would not be rescued. Fact is,she did a karate number on me when I tried to get her into the rescue vehicle... Damned near cracked my balls; I didn't know hookers knew karate. I guess she liked doing what she was doing. And what a Lilith in a fight!

I persisted in my attack on the Ho-house, used my connections with the newspapers and police to expose what was going on, cops got involved and arrested the pimps. I almost had Joanne in the clear when she met some young guy totally removed from the situation and she is now living with the young guy in Toronto.
I got word from an intermediary that she might want to see me, but after ten years of bullshit, violence and mayhem--admittedly on my part-- I figured the game was not worth the candle.

Faggy old English teacher really got pissed at being jerked around.

Most guys, when they get rejected and pretty well called pr..ks--tend to move on.
I guess I don't handle rejection very well, even from The Whore of Babylon, who did have that writer's gift. That seemed to be the bond between us.

But now, after causing everybody a heap of trouble, the chess game ending in a draw, I just sit here picking flowers up on Choctaw Ridge.
And thinking of another song that is more a propos: See What Your Rage Has Done!

Donnetta Lee said...

Well, many have stood on the Tallahachee Bridge (sp?). Some would say there was an addiction of a kind at work here. Some would say a self destruct button was hit. Maybe, after all that invested energy, you escaped with life and limb (hopefully, all limbs) and are the better off for it. Turned into a story. What more can a writer ask for? Donnetta

ivan said...

Thanks, Donnetta,

I appreciated the insight.

Josie said...

I've been driven home by the rain and snow, and you guys have eaten all my chocolate...! :-)

ivan said...

Heh Heh Heh.

Rapunzel! Rapunzel!

(giggle. burp).

Watch out for the teletubby in the cellar. I think he ate the chocolate Easter bunny.