Friday, June 01, 2007

TRAIN SONG


A good "web buddy" has been going through a lot of trauma.

Her daughter, apparently, is quite mad and has been verbally and physically abusive to her children, her husband, and her mother, who is my web buddy.

Screams. Punching holes in drywall, calling my web buddy at all hours just to hurl abuse at her.

Don't some of us remember our own "psychotic" episodes in times of great stress, when a marriage is falling apart, where it seems that you will just explode from all the stress and woe.

And looking back at it all, perhaps thirty years back, it was all so "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

And wouldn't it have been better to have done nothing at all?

What happens during a time of great family stress, especially when it dawns on you that you were actually the guilty party--is that you develop a condition, a condition of fight or flight. The adrenaline has coursed through your sytem and it is the adrenaline that speaks, takes you right over.

I can't say that what I describe below in a book chapter of mine is a parallel situation to my web buddy's, Josie's
plight, but it would seem that Josie now has a condition brought about by a nutty relative.
The natural reaction is, "I will do this, I will do that, I will do this."
But it seems better to do nothing at all until the evil time passes.

Here then is my Chapter Twelve of LIGHT OVER NEWMARKET.

It may be instructive, or it may not be instructive.

Ivan


Chapter Twelve

I finished eating, still stunned, when Valerie walked in, bright and confident. "Hi. Whatcha doin'?"
I said nothing for a while, then finally announced that it was all over between me and my wife. "She just wrote me a Dear John, but the maddening part is that she was so goddamn intellectual over it, not a hint of feeling. Just changes her men like that, says rather breezily that it's 'all over and that's that.'"

There was a sly look on Valerie' face. "Show me the letter."

"I can't show you the letter. It's personal. You know."

But eventually I did show her the letter and we both talked about how coldly logical it was, how almost flippant. And at the same time a great rush of feeling, outrage, anger, hate was coming upon me. The nerve of the broad! I began pacing the tiled floor, Valerie beginning to pace alongside me, empathizing with my motions, agreeing with me over the outrageous way Loren had treated the separation, how she had not made any move at all to try to save the marriage, how open, how communicative I myself had been. How shallow of her!

That night I drank coffee until all hours, not daring to touch alcohol, knowing that that was the mark of the failure, the separated husband, the skid row alcoholic.

Three days later, I was still pacing the floor, alternately in my own apartment and at Valerie's. Yet there was so much practical stuff for me and Valerie to do.

It neared time to make Valerie's (and my own) border trip, the six-month mark at which we both had to renew our visas in order to stay in Mexico.

Something was upon me. I thought of nothing else but the goodbye letter. The nerve. The ho-hum tone Loren had used in her Dear John after a marriage of almost eleven years. We took the train to Laredo and on that rickety ride I could not take my mind off the letter.
At Laredo we went to the border point and did all the things we had to do there, then we went shopping at Woolworth's of all places, because we had so little money. I was becoming abstracted more and more. I had trouble concentrating on anything. While picking out jeans at Woolworth's Valerie said something about the fact that she and I were the only poor people in the artists' colony of Manuel Hidalgo, and I began to feel all my wealth leaving me, another separation anxiety. We took our joint pictures at the booth at Woolworth's, a quarter for each set of prints and I had the first rush (it was written all over my face) of what it was going to be like in the future, the poverty, the discount store shopping, the menial jobs, the decline into bumhood. I knew the future well and the future was beginning to scare me.
Valerie wanted to travel when we were in Texas Motion was somehow life to her. We took the bus to Corpus Christi and booked into a hotel there, replete with swimming pool and all the amenities. I could not keep my mind off Loren, posh surroundings or not. Loren, why that dumb woman! She...

Late at night, twelve Corona de Barils later, with Valerie doing all she could to love me, I decided to call Loren's sister on the telephone. Maybe the letter and the sentiments in it (what sentiments!) were just a dodge. Maybe Loren still loved me. "Don't phone the sister," Valerie is saying in between the lovemaking through which she was trying to bring me to myself. "She's Loren's sister after all and you won't get any info out of her."

I called Saint Jack, my friend, who said, "Are you having a good time there? Yes? Maybe you should stay there."

Later, the movies in downtown Corpus Christi, one a really bad remake of King Kong, the town somehow darkened, few folk seeming to be on the dingy industrial streets.
I could not sit still for five minutes. I was always going to the foyer to smoke. Loren. I can't relax. I can't stay inside my own skin.

On the way back to Manuel Hidalgo on the train--we had paid for a Pullman of an old 1940's style--Valerie slept while I stayed up and smoked package after package of Delicados, the sweet-smelling Mexican cigarettes. Who was the young man? Who was the 23-year-old Loren had talked of? Who was the son-of-a-bitch?

At about three in the morning a face came. I was the face of Red Stassen, a protégé of the Artist back in Newmarket. Why the little bastard! Alouicious "Call me Red" Stassen, the sharp-mouthed tall drink of water who had once come along with the Artist on invitation to my house, myself very tired during that period from all the teaching and writing, worn out and vulnerable from the work. And the little twerp of a car salesman, after sampling my standard Black Tower wine had said, "Don't you know your wines?" And then after an evening of talking about himself, his hopes, dreams, fears, he had dazed me with a parting remark just before leaving my house. "You think you're so important. You're not."
Feeling a rush of prediction, I had mumbled something like "I just had a sense of deja vu.
"No such thing as deja vu," Stassen had hissed. "It is only the realization that you are in contact with an intelligence equal to or greater than your own."
And with that he had left, gone with the Artist, leaving me with the feeling that something had been taken from me, that somehow the young man had gained power over me and I had liked the feeling not at all. Later, in future meetings with the Artist, I said I did not like the company of untrained and undersocialized twenty-two-year-olds and would the artist mind not bringing Red Stassen around again.

I did not know how I perceived so suddenly and with such certainty that it was Red Stassen who had taken my wife, but I knew :(and not like Captain Queeg) with geometric logic that Stassen was the man. I tried to sleep a little through the remaining day as we neared the Manuel Hidalgo railroad siding, the same one where Jack Kerouac's pal, Neal Cassady was said to have died quite alone along the tracks.

We disembarked. I found the street urchins I had met earlier, on our embarkation, before we had left on our border trip--got them to get a cab to take Valerie and me back to Manuel Hidalgo. The craziness generated by the letter was still upon me.
Once at Val's apartment, I made some excuse and made for my own digs. Valerie would not let me off so lightly. There was an argument. She said that she did not want to be alone, that I was somehow at fault, that all I thought of was Loren and all the time.
Somehow, I extricated myself and went home. Loren was on my mind forever and I could think of nothing else.
I had, within the first few days of getting Loren's letter, really changed, changed from the relatively worry-free and somehow pathetically innocent boy into something worried, addled, someone who had no peace of mind. Yet it was my mind that was holding off the inevitable stress. I had up until the time of the letter, been reading a piece by Adam Smith, the smart new financial writer turned New York Magazine general interest journalist. He'd just put a book out, The Powers of Mind. The section on est, or Eberhard Seminar Training was so startling the I actually at one point began to get into serious est as a mind-relaxer. I did meet, in Manuel Hidalgo one or two practitioners of the exotic new discipline, one of them an actual instructor, and what they did seemed to work. There was a meditation exercise titled The Wise Thing in the Cave. The subject was to close his eyes, think of some numinous wise thing in a cave, who would, presumably utter the very thing that the seeker was questing after. In the case of Smith himself, the writer had visualized, of all people, Walter Cronkite, who told Smith all he wanted to know about a complex situation Smith had been in. Cronkite was somehow the voice of supreme and manifest authority.
Now I would have to concentrate. Now I would have to conjure my own Wise Thing in the Cave; now I had to reach into the depths of myself to find an ultimate answer. Does Loren still love me? Constant thinking and worrying, in this crazed state of mind, simply would not do.

There was something on the wall of one of my two bedrooms, the room that I had used to play my guitar, my music room where I had so often played Malaguena Sale Rosa, not Girl From Malaga, but Girl of the Red Room, more like Valerie of the Red Room, the red queen herself. The Moody Blues' Knights in White Satin had been another favourite, but save for one or two stanzas, I hardly remembered the bridge. I had hung something on the wall, a kind of painting, reminiscent of the Group of Seven, perhaps Emily Carr. A stark mountain. It was the last thing I looked at before I closed my eyes for the est exercise. I closed my eyes to conjure The Wise Thing in the Cave, but it was not a person that appeared, not Walter Cronkite, but the upside-down image of a snowcapped mountain, wrong-way up.

There was no soothing voice from within the cave, just the upside-down mountain, obvious symbol, I supposed, for God, but God was now upside-down. The Devil? The upside-down mountain had a powerful Dolby Stereo voice now and it was telling me to leave Mexico, leave this place, leave immediately and go back home to where Loren was, to Canada, the sooner the better, or I would lose everything, mind, money, sanity hearth, home, mother.

I began to gather up my things, began to pack. The next morning I would leave for Toronto. I would go home or hope to go home.

During all this time, I did not dare drink, though before getting Loren's letter, I had averaged about a half a quart of tequila cut with some nice tasting apple soda, Manzanilla. I would sit on the roof of my apartment with its wide-circling balcony and stare up at the stars which in Mexico jumped right out at you, constellations larger than the moon, The Big Dipper, Orion's belt (Orion's belt indeed!) and the outpointing blue and red giants, Betelguese and Bellartrix. My trained eye could spot a nebula in Orion's belt, but I was content not to be a scientist, just a drunk intoxicated with a Danteesque sense of myself soon to be among those very stars.
I was packing my flight bag. I had intended to leave the guitar with Valerie, the guitar I had bought during or visit, a kind of honeymoon back there in Guadalajara.

She walked in breezily, as she was wont to do.
"You've packed. You're going back home?"
"Yes."
There was a pause.
She fixed here brown eyes on mine.
"Listen to me. Listen carefully. You're crazed. The letter has crazed you.
"You are crazed. What you are doing does not make any sense. You're not thinking clearly. You are maddened."
"Crazed, am I? It's the only sane thing I should be doing."
"Listen to me. You are crazed. You don't know what you're doing."
"Crazed, am I" I repeated, gathering up my flight bag and typewriter case and my notes on particle acceleration. I picked up the guitar, out of a mound of I had made of my belongings. I offered Valerie the guitar. "Take this. It means something. Malaguena Sale Rosa. The guitar, the song. It's really about you."
She just looked at me as she took the black, wooden-fretted instrument.
"Kevin..."
"I have to leave. I've arranged for Mrs. Vega to call me a taxi."

The taxi arrived and I made for it, Valerie training behind, holding the guitar, trying to convince me not to leave.

The taxi rolled down the cobblestoned street--always the cobblestones--and turned toward the dirt road leading to the railroad station, past the rows of Australian pines, bumping over potholes along the ochre-coloured dirt.
We reached the landing, the same one at which Dean Moriarty or Neal Cassady had died. All this time, Valerie had been in the back of the cab, holding our guitar.

The train to Nuevo Laredo was unexpectedly right there. Valerie was furious.
"You're an asshole," she shouted as I was mumbling my goodbyes and telling her that she should keep the guitar.
"You're an asshole."
"Yes, you're probably right."
"You're an asshole. Listen to me. You think you're so intelligent, so talented. You're simple. Simple. The key to you is your ego.
I mumbled some more goodbyes and tried to kiss her.
"You asshole...aren't you even going to pay the cab driver?
I produced the pesos and gave her some, but she threw the money in my face
"You're an asshole. Simple!"

The train was gathering steam. I rushed up to the nearest black Pullman and disappeared with one last look at Valerie in her frustration and anger.
....end chapter

9 comments:

Josie said...

Ivan, my goodness...! That's so sad. I don't know what to do right now, so I am doing nothing. I am getting very good at losing the people I love. I think by now my heart must be a little black nugget of coal. I should have known better than to fall in love with the Munchkins.

My son-in-law has been convinced that I am the "crazy" one, and the cause of all their problems. So, I suppose if I am entirely out of the picture, they will live happily ever after.

I worry about the children because they love me, especially Freddie. He and I have a very strong bond. But children are resilient. Besides, it wouldn't be long before they are turned against me as well, so it's better for them to have good memories of me.

My whole life ruined by a chemical freak of nature. Why does God hate me?

Josie

islandgrovepress said...

Josie,
All is not lost--far from it.
It just seems that way right now.
Give this some time and like water over rocks, it'll straighten itself out like that.

When in a similar situation, I too, ask, "Why does God hate me?"

The answer shows that the Deity has a sense of humour.

"Why do I hate you?
"Because I don't like your ....ing face!"

##

Ivan

Josie said...

#@%&@*!!!!

islandgrovepress said...

Josie,

That's from that bird, Woodstock, out of PEANUTS, right?

He is capable of expressing complex and powerfully felt emotions, the whole range, with a simple &@*#@&!!!, which Snoopy, his pal, understands completely! :)

Ivan

Trevor Record said...

That was good, Ivan. I've got to see about reading it all one day, but I see it's 33-chapters long. Do you stil have any published copies kicking around? I would be willing to pay/barter for one. (I prefer reading books when it's possible, hard to take a computer on the bus or bath tub.)

islandgrovepress said...

Thanks, Trevor.

Coming from kind of a talented dude like you, I appreciate it.

I would be happy to send you a copy of Light Over Newmarket, but the version I have on hand should be considered unedited...too many typos and dropped lines, but it reads more or less all right. My tyesetters were just in from Uganda
and I swear they carried my original script on their heads, like gun-bearers. I can almost hear them singing something like "Show me the way to go home."

Once they got the mighty typographic machine going, I couldn't stop their presses for a proper edit, and they wouldn't let me. Ugandan publishers. Egad.
So the bound copy of LIGHT should be considered unedited, and I am relectant to charge much for it, though the thing can be had for twenty dollars.
Give me your home address if I can't find it on your web, and I'll send you the book.
... At least my Ugandans didn't screw up the cover--that they did a good job on, what with raised printing and Art Deco lettering.

The book is extremely compact and should mail very easily.

Ivan

Trevor Record said...

Ah, yes, my mail:

#203-5932 Patterson Ave
Burnaby, BC
V5H 4B4

islandgrovepress said...

Waycool, Trevor.

The goodies on me are on "contact Ivan" above. Just click on.

Ivan

islandgrovepress said...

Trevor,

I see you got the book.

You can send a cheque or money order.

Ivan
>
>
> Ivan Prokopchuk
> 540 Timothy Street, Apartment 304,
> Newmarket,Ontario. L3Y 5N9
>