Friday, August 31, 2007

Hallejuja, I'm a bum

Exurban blues

Woke up this mornin'

Both cars were gone.

They were goin' to the mall

And left me all alone

I feel so lonesome

Lonesome as a man could be

They took the BMW

And left the Harley for me.

A story is told of the Yuppie in a terrible car accident, and all he could say was "My Rolex. You damaged my Rolex!"

Lord, I miss being rich.

When you are rich you lose all your anxieties, your complexes. You start projects and your projects succeed.

You write a novel and you get published because you know everybody.
You exude an atmosphere of class and money. Nothing can stand in you way.
Opportunities come up. You choose one, discard another.
A headship at a university.
People want to you to run for mayor.

The Police Association wants you to donate. And would you be an honorary captain?

The softball team needs a coach.

Your old university phones up and asks if it's all right to reprint your poems in an alumni magazine called The Rambler. All right, hell I'd do anything to be a re-published poet.

And then one day you pick up a vintage novel, written by a countryman, Nicholas Gogol.

Diary of a Madman.

That's what I want to do now. I want to go crazy.

Talk about middleclass ennui.

I decided one day that I would be a reprobate and a bum. Mahatma Ghandi writ small. Very small.

So you give up all the golden factories to see what you might be.

Well, it's thirty years later and the truth is hard to handle.

"You're no good, you're no good, baby you're no good."

The searching for long butts outside the Dominion.

The gathering of wine bottles, pouring out all the dregs into one caraffe.

The play you had hoped to recover your money with, mouldering in a drawer.

The chasing of a lovely sex goddess who finally lays the truth on you. "You're cute, but you're incompetent. I like comfort.

And yet, down as you are, women seen to feel the stress in you.
This somehow attracts them and they are all over you.

Always the women come when you're broke. When you have the bucks, it seems that no one wants you...One of life's mysteries. The poet in the gutter syndrome, I suppose.
But all that you had lost!

Oh how nice it was to have been with the horsey set, the yapping of bowler-hatted matrons.
"Oh gawd Is Cissy still riding that pig?"

The ascot with the tennis outfit.
The professorship at the college.

Threw it all away.

Nowadays, they don't call you eccentric.
You have no money, so you are crazy.

But last night I had a dream.

It was they young man in the leather-patched leisure suit.

In other dreams, he had walked away from me, waving a sad goodbye.

This time, he was walking towards me, and saying hello.

Somethin's happenin' here, Mr. Jones.
That, or it's all in my head.
The little match girl lighting up her portion of the frozen street.
And me now Ragged Dick the Match Boy.
And if I end up in jail, it'll surely by Ragged Match the Dick Boy. Ha.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Lisa Nowak, you fly high in my books

Once or twice, I have lost seriously at love.

I mean seriously.

II too have been sexually obsesseded with someone who dishonestly dumped me for someone else , but at the time, the most creative response I could come up with was replays of that old Georgre Thorogood video, "I just came back to say goodbye."
That, or the fetal position.
It never occrurred to me to put on a diaper and go confront the bastards with pepper spray.

Says former astronaut Lisa Nowak ( who now wants her monitoring bracelet removed),

"It would have been very easy for me to permanently retreat into a world of personal sorrow, but my family and friends have given me a greater view about what is important in our lives," she said. "I look forward to resolution and closure for everyone."

I'm not sure what context Ms. Nowak's quotes were in, but I sure like the idea of, Ms. Nowak, uh, f*cking fate and not taking rejection lying down.

Talk about a creative response!

A man who last week interviewed Ms. Nowak said he had an other-wordly feeling about the whole thing.:
The interview was like a "chess game," Becton said. He said Nowak bargained with information, like her car's whereabouts.
"I realized I was dealing with somebody who was more intelligent than I was, more educated," Becton said. "I was having a very difficult time gaining any information from her."

Nowak's main interest during the interview seemed to be how much Shipman (his boss?) knew, he said.
"There are chunks of the interview, if not large portions, where I'm actually the one being interviewed by her," Becton said. "She was very calculating and methodical in the manner in which she would answer my questions."
Becton also mentioned the diapers, which had made Nowak a joke on comedy shows and around the world.


How to get back the one you love.

How to avenge oneself against the heretofore invisible lover.

I do believe Ms. Nowak's actions have helped me to stumble upon a truth.
You can have therapy (which is usually slanted toward separation)--or you can do something o-u-t-r-a-g-e-o-u-s. and not have to retreat into a sad world of personal sorrow.

Unfortunately, the shortest distance between two points is not a straight line.

I myself, have at one time decided I wasn't going to take rejection lying down, but the road to revenge and recovery, led me, unfortunately, to priests, pimps and police. I think the lady was in some sort of cult and I had to put my very being against this problem. Not to dramatize, but uh, to dramatize!
It took years and years, but finally, my wandering lady dropped her pimp lover.
I was so exhausted from the fight that I hardly had the energy to call her up.
And why?
Last I heard, she found still another Duke, and good luck to her.
I am tired of punching out or even jailing pimps who would trap my girlfriends.
Surely, I had been in the wrong crowd.
But damn. I lost $100,000 over this bit of hubris, drinking, thinking, scheming.
By the tinme I got rich again, I hardly noticed. There was only THE PROBLEM.
Thank god I came across a transitional woman.
Luck seems always a woman and she came to me while I was at my lowest state, pouring on the love, gratis, free, because she was that way.
"Isis," she would say.
Isis for sure.

She somehow restored me to a semblance of manhood.
The woman I had been obsessed with had been worse than cruel.
Seeing me in my funk one day, she had said, "That's what happens when you f*ck around with us broads."
She had then retreated to the safety of her new husbands BMW, whose licence number I promptly jotted down.
Oh the sleuthing, the search for the car, and the Aparment of Horrror. Horror to me, anyway.
Found them and did violence to the guy...Good thing he was no bigger than me!

Oh Lisa Nowak, could I ever identify!
Shit, give me a diaper and a jockstrap.
I am ready to rock and roll.

Monday, August 27, 2007

By Grand Central Station, I Sat Down and Wept--The love songs of Elizabeth Smart

Poets and poetesses can be such baroque figures. Baroque? Never mind baroque--go really fantastical and common: Rococo!

Take Elizabeth Smart and George Barker.

Elizabeth Smart, of Ottawa, fell in love with George Barker's poetry. A poetess herself, she said Barker was the genius of poetry, a feeling that Barker apparently shared. Barker was absolutly hypnotic with women, and something of a rat.

They eventually met--on Elizabeth's dime to get him out of wartime Japan where he was teaching--but Barker came accompanied by a wife.

Wife or no wife, a tryst developed and two passionate people "ate and devoured each other" (Barker's words) to the result of two illegitimate children, Barker leaving his wife--only to go on and marry somebody else and not Elizabeth.

At about this time Elizabeth Smart, living in London, produced her breakthough poem, By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept.
The book of poetry acquired a cult following and twenty years later it was on the shelf of every Sixties hippie in love. (Even me).

By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept is the story of Elizabeth and George Barkers affair up until the time of the writing of the poem.

And here begins my despair as a writer and sparsely published poet. (You can check me out by clicking onto "Ryerson l967" (above) for my early college poetry.

I don't have the talent of George or Elizabeth, but I have been Gerorge Barker to so many poetesses.

Thank God there were no children outside my marriage at the time.

But I swear every affair I've had was with a woman writer, and in each case, it was always gorgeous woman, so turned out and so sexy that you had to weep.

This, at least, I had in common with George Barker: I would be attracted to idyllic women and there was noting I could do about it. And neither, it seems, could they.

But a recent documentary on Elizabeth Smart certainly brought to mind the passion of two people, and how Tristan and Isolde can end in such tragedy.

And yet the art, the art, the beautiful words.
How many times have I sat at Union Station, the red Via light on to signal an oncoming train, and yet I knew it was the red light put out by my own Roxanne in that famous song by the Police.
Roxanne, don't put out your red light.
It was very close to the pathos of Elizabeth Smart.
And Like Elizabeth Smart, I too began to write, but in a different way.
My intention had been to write as great a lament as
By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept.

But here is what came out instead:
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.
A tad solipsisitc, no?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Welcome to the horse show. Guest blog by Jill Smith

I think Sienna (Pam) Sienna. Audio Video, Disco. I see. I learn -- would be interested in this vignette, written by my daughter, when she was 19.
Pam raises horses, some of them thoroughbreds, an ideal breed for hunting-jumping, the subject of Jill's essay.


Beautifully turned out horses, arabians, thoroughbreds, and even a paint here and there.
Athletic riders cantering sedately around the show ring over eight jumps in a set order.

To the layman, each hunter class in a horseshow is all the same. All he sees are the beautiful animals and the riders, all decked out in hunting jackets, the jodhpurs, riding boots.

But there might be fifty riders in a class. This might affect a school-of-sardines impression. The eyes glaze.

To those taking part, it is another thing entirely. The knowledgeable audience is composed of attentive grooms, red-faced screaming coaches, worried proud parents and overenthusiastic friends. Expect the unexpected!

When it is apparent to everyone save the rider that the horse is going to stop or add an unnecessary half-stride, they all cluck frantically, but it is no good. The dishonest horse halts suddenly in front of an unoffending jump, unceremoniously dunping the hapless rider to the ground. A harried groom attempts to catch the insolent beast while the coach screams, waves his arms, and pulls out his hair.

Ocasionally, a wee slip of a girl is overmounted on a very high-strung, wide-eyed thoroughbread, whose madly-threshing hooves never seem to touch the ground. She steers the foaming beast around the course with a bored expression on her tiny face, oblivious of the frantic cries of "Whoa!" emanating from the spectators.

But it is not just the rounds that we watch. Our other senses pick up other things too, like the familiar aroma of sweaty horses as the grooms frantically curry them into some semblance of dryness.
On your right is a well-dressed woman whose face you recognize and whose nanme escapes you. She is gossiping-- with someone you know equally well--over which coach is sleeping with which student, how much so-and-so spent on her new jumper, and what a shame it is to have lost Dynasty, Box Car Willie and Izvestia, all world-class horses.

In the midst of all this activity, a loudspeaker blares with strange regularity."Loose horse!" This usually upsets the horses on course.

Distracted horses and distracted audience all turn toward the dust cloud that is advancing towards them.
The dust cloud gradually morphs into recognizable quadruped.
Shortly after, a mortified groom comes panting up to retrieve his charge. As an extra treat for us, he may even be bawled out by his rider, who doesn't know where the f... he is or what he is saying.
Hair hanging over the eyes of his hanging head, the chastised groom sullenly dragshis truant charge back to the temporary stables.

No question that there is drama, suspense, comedy here.

Come on out the the hunter rounds!
They are more exciting than you might think.

All you have to do is open your eyes, your ears, and, unfortunately, your nose.

--Jill (Prokopchuk) Smith

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bogey at four a.m.

The trouble with most advice you get about smoking and drinking, is that most people don't enoy these things the way you do.

And it's true, probably, that that these self-same people, once hooked would fight like the devil for any bluenosed politically correct prudes who would deprive them of these pleasurable habits.

Smoking is great. It makes you feel the way you did as a kid again. Drinking is also great. It kills pain. It inhibits fatigue. It is a formidable enemy of the blues.
It takes you away from your awful self.

Let me tell you of a time when drinking and smoking pulled me through.

I had no job, no apartment, my mother was dying (again), I had really bad teeth and my wife was suiing me for child support.
This was a time for serious drinking and smoking. How would I do all that with no money?

I would begin to lean on all my contacts, set up luncheon dates.
Usually, the editors would be late.

I had to do something to control the trembling of my hands.

I would sit there and down an entire caraffe of wine. The owner and the waiters were wondering what in hell I was doins sitting there all alone, drinking expensive wine on a tab I hoped my editor would pick up.
Little glances between the owner and the wine waiter. "On-the-tab wino."

Finally, the editor shows up, but he has brought his top salesman with him and soon they were talkin' real slick and smooth about hall-tones and rotogravure advertising and the sure news that the Toronto Star was going to go full colour any day now.
I had ordered a thick roast beef sandwich (I would eat half and take the other home in a doggy bag...I hoped).

I tried to get a word in edgewise, but all I got from the bearded editor was a nod. I took it to mean that my boat was coming in.

"Your boat is coming in," said the editor, smoking a Havana while I ingested my Rothman's. Ah, the camaraderie of the after-dinner smoke, the echoes of Victorian society. The editor had looked at my Salvation Army trenchcoat with the burn hole in it. "That your smoking jacket?"

Thanks God I had the remnans of a reputation. I think I looked and smelled like a brisling sardine.

Looks like I was going to get the job.

I would do a major series on style, on Rosie the Riveter and how her style continues to affect print, radio and television, especially Britney, Madonna the musical group known as "No Doubt".
Gwen Stefani. Yeah.

Lord knows how I could have gotten through this "interview" without drinking and smoking.

But once I got the job, I decided I'd better stop drinking and smoking quite so much. Obviously, I had to cut down
or they would see the real me, the nervous wreck, the homeless guy with a drinking problem, the ciggy-bummer from all and sundry.

I had to cut down.

Now that's easy to say.

How pleasant it is to take a nice Scocth to bed with you.

How lovely the slight buzz of a Camel first thing in the morning, and after a caraffe of coffee, even more coffe, even more cigarettes. "I am a genius, Martha."
...But it is all stimulant-induced.
Still, wouldn't you?

How great if feels to be ten years old again, no worries, no pain. To be bulletproof and omniscient--this is how that Mayan gift to man makes you feel.

Still, I had to cut down.

There is that pack of cigarettes you usually have first thing in the morning.

Well, lets have breakfast first, no sense of smoking on an empty stomach.

You somehow get through the day with no beer lunch and on only ten cigarettes.

This relative abstinence, this self-control is doomed to failure, and you know it.

Now come the ten p.m. bites that get you when you've had dinner. You should be absolutely content--while all this time, you're dying for a drink.

Not yet.
Gotta use the drinking as a reward. Gotta write something. Blog somethng.

During these rare times of employment and self-control, there is the inevitable woman, who thinks you have been a fancy magazine writer all along.

She is sitting there in the restaurant, writing something, scribbling furiously, as all the young girls do when they break offf with somebody or are in some sort of emotional turmoil.

You raise a glass, you are ignored. She goes on, writing furiously.

Writing, writing, writing.

A page of 8X10 paper flies off her bistro table. I glides your way. It is her address and telephone number.

Here we go again.

We are in her apartment. We are drinking so hard, I swear our beer and liquor bottles are piling so much that we are invading the poor frightened cat's territory.

I excuse myself for a pee.

For some reason, she wants to go in there with me. "Here is your drink," she says, while checking out the hardware.


Guess she wan't impressed.
"Hey," is say. "This is first draft. Not hard copy."

She was a little depressed once I got back to the kitchen table.

"I think we've been spending too much time together. I think we should be seeing other people."

"Who," I said. "Ron Jeremy?"

"Something like that," she smiled.
There are images of failed European and Asian products in Canada. I had seen some of the ad layouts. Trimpecker fish . Pansy Chocolates. Blue Peter Margarine. All failed because of nomenclature. I mean, would you eat a pansy chocolate?
Migod, I am a failed European product.
I finally raise a little bravado.

"Well, lady, I ain't deep, but I'm fancy."
"I think you should go home now.

Ah, the old Bukowski rag.

Now I'd have even more reason to drink when I got home.

Professor is a colossal fossil with a docile tassle.

Back to the room, back to the liquor cabinet.

A 26--er and a pack of cigarettes.

You look at yourself, bottle in hand, cigarette dangling from the corner of your lip.

Hey, Bogey..

"Oh, if only Susan could see me now!'


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Rumors that my pal Andrew Krystal has a Christ complex are greatly exaggerated

I see by my site meter that I have a hit from Halifax, Nova Scotia.

It's probably from my phone- in radio pal, Andrew Krystal. Andrew has left CFRB in Toronto to work in Halifax. Halifax? Is that where they send a sharp-tongued Stephen Colbert in Canada?
Andrew is the the founder of the Krystal Nation, which has a large cult following. Surely, Andrew wasn't sent to Halifax because he peed-off the Pope.
Gotta say Andrew has a graphic sense.
I think he has a Christ complex, though I'm sure he's not exactly Catholic.
Still my radio pal!
I won a couple of prizes after spending some air time with Andrew on CFRB Toronto.
Missing his sharp wit and on-air company.
(Yeah, I know. God is going to get both of us for this blog!)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Jesus says shut the .... up!

Upbraid a fool and thou shalt be a fool thyself.
Do not upbraid a fool and the fool will persisit in his vanity.
Ah that old Mesopotamian Rag!
Sleep with they neighbour's wife while he is away and the adultress will liken you to a piece of bread. You shall become a piece of bread.
The last of the Mesopotamian people walk amongs us. They carry their literature and largely, we pay no heed.
We pay no heed to 20,000 years of living, because we are more enlightened, smarter, hip.
And all the while echoing the manifest to of some l9th century no-account who came upon an ass's bridge, thinking he knew more than all the men and women of history. Karl Marx, that upstart whose philosophy all we liberals unconsciously ape, right down to political correctness and our homage, even admiration for the Chines Garbageman/woman.
They want us all to be Chines garbagemen/women.
And they have very nearly succeeded.
Religion is the opiate of the masses, they tell us, while here in Canada, Marxism seems to be the opiate of the asses.
Soviet Kanuckistan.
What this country needs is a "Barat" from the Glorious Republic of Kazakhstan.
He'd straigten us out. But movie attendances are down.
The Brits gave us a country, gratis. No bloodshed, no civil wars. A gift.
And what did we do with it? Became carbon-copy Americans, right down to the credit cards.
Became Chinies garbagemen/garbabewomen. Sold all our resources and became drawers of water and hewers of wood.
Three balls hanging off the pawnbroker's sill.
Our balls hanging in the wind.
Donald, where's your troosers?

Monday, August 20, 2007

The roadrunner and the municipal politician

If you bring home the Bacon--to read, that is--you are immediately struck by the brilliance of the man, this Francis Bacon said by some to be a co-author of some of Shakespeare's plays.

Francis Bacon was probably one of the brightest of Englishmen.

Also, at times one of the poorest.
Always about three years ahead of his income...a spell in debtor's prison. Plotting and scheming till he finally made Lord Chancellor, and for a long time, his troubles were over. Franci Bacon was sort a of Wiley E. Coyote who finally made it.

Well, I'll never make it to Lord Chancellor, though for a time, when I was running for mayor, some jokers would address me as "Your Worship." This would be acoompanied by a slap on the back.
"Buck up, f*ck up!"

I am surely the Wiley E. Coyote, of Canadian poitics, chasing that elusive Roadrunner, and if I ever catch that Beep-Beeping son -of -a--Concorde, I am going to personally sodomize the little bastard.

Yeah, hold still for it. Beep-beep your ass!

I have made huge investment in ACME, a company, surely Chinese, and probably retailed by Wallymart.

Through ACME I have had bounce-springs to augment my sprints, rockets to propel my pursuit, catapults to launch me to intercept that Beep-Beeping Avis Supersonicus, only to have me go off he edges of mesa, after which small puffs of me would go up in smoke; the rockets would put me into the direct path of transport trucks
And catapults that would fling too far, putting the Roadrunner immedialtely behind me, and Beep-Beeping for the road!

The Roadrunner is The Office. I've been running for Office for the past thirty years.
Just when I am about to grab a position, "Beep-Beep!"

Eintein says if you keep doing the same thing over and over again, with the same results, you are probably crazy.
This is not a novel concept for me. My poor former wife knows I've been a crazy son-of-a-bitch for a long time.
"But you're cute."

Time and again, I don ACME equipment (while congratulating myself on my slyness) and time and again I end up against the side of the mesa. And then I hear that maddening "Bee--Beep."

Little Madrechingador!
I am really starting go believe that I'd better not buy stuff from ACME any more.

Or not try to catch the Roadrunner in direct pursuit..

I tried for a while to have the roadrunner come to me, sitting on the road with a kangaroo rat in my hand.

Beep-Beep! Both Roadrunner and rat gone. I am almost knocked off the mesa with the draft from their passage.

Clearly, I have to learn to go around.

Not for nothing did I earn the cartoon namne of Eternus-Famishus-Famishus.

I am going broke in my pursuit of politics, in pursuit of the Roadrunner.

Of if I only had the engenuity of a Francis Bacon.

Bacon, always the scientist, probably would have recommended bird shot.

But I know for sure I'd have the luck of a Dick Chaney.

Ah for the days of aristocracy.

You didn't really have to do anything. Old money took care of everything.

Just stand there and look striking.



Friday, August 17, 2007

Summer doldrums of childhood

I have always had an affinity for southern lady writers.

Carson McCullers especially. And Flannery O' Connor.

Recently, I have found a kind of incarnation in the person of E. A. Monroe, though Elizabeth writes more of her childhood rather than darker themes.

Liz Monroe actually hails from Oklahoma and is a country doctor's daughter.

Now doctors' daughters seem to go two ways.

One is the rebellious chile with the high IQ feeling frustrated in a rural environment, and the other doing something with her acumen, to be a writer, to hear things and record them, to love those old country houses, the settees on front porches, the night sounds, the cicadas the howl of a coyote, the nearness of one's love, the twang of a guitar, the sure comfort of one's animals and pets.
My best comparison would be Canada's Joni Mitchell, herself a prairie writer, though in song, with her highly evocative "Songs For Aging Children Come".

Songs for aging children indeed do come.

Does the moon play only silver
As it strums the galaxies?

Echoes of of one's youth.

So much like Dylan Thomas, namesake for Bob Dylan (Bob Zimmerman knew good poetry when he himself had read it. He hoped to be as good--and he was).

And who of us was not recruited in our high school years
to take part in Dylan Thomas' immortal play for voices, those childhood reminiscences so beautifully rendered in "Under Milk Wood."

I offer below E. A. Monroe's childhood reminiscences, titled, SUMMER DOLDRUMS.

The summer doldrums come when the sun bakes the Granite Mountains into a hard boil-- scorcher and the wind, what little wind trickles through the dust and the heat waves, blows a breath that withers and browns the wild grasses growing in the fields and along the roadsides.
It’s a wind that rushes straight out of Momma’s oven and singes the eyebrows right off my face when I open the oven door. We have rebuilt our tree house in the old mesquite tree that grows beside the road a couple of times. Every year, as soon as school lets out for the summer, we tackle last year’s tree house and give it a remodel. The tree house isn’t much more than a frame of 2x4s nailed to the mesquite tree’s limbs and covered over with warped planks salvaged from the scrap heap left by the carpenters who are busy erecting another new house on our street. We scrape together all the nails we can find, plus a few nails confiscated from workbenches and garages. We nail boards to the rickety tree house and brag about how grand this summer’s tree house is gonna look, our voices droning like the cicadas high in the branches above us. I nail a couple of boards across a Y-branch higher up in the tree and claim my look out perch.

Tired of hammering and nailing, the gang sprawls on the floor and dangle their feet and legs over the edge. The tree house doesn’t have any walls and we figure the space between the supporting tree limbs and the bottom of the floorboards an excellent place to cram any “prisoners.”

Beneath the floor the boards bristle with nail spikes.“Hey, what do ya wanna do now?

“Wanna ride bikes down Tin Can Hill and jump the ditch?”“Wanna ’splore Devil’s Canyon and pick up arrow heads?”“Hey, let’s climb Mount Baldy and search for your grandpa’s treasure chest!”“Naw, it’s too hot.” ...meets every suggestion of what to do next.

We’d done everything there was to do that summer. Thanks to ideas stolen from watching too many black- and- white Tarzan movies and Johnny Weissmuller swinging from tree to tree to rescue Jane and Boy; we had hacked and trampled jungle trails through a couple acres of tall Johnson grass, posted warning signs, and laid booby traps — mostly trenches covered over with cut Johnson grass.

We’d caught, tamed and released horny toads. We’d done our best to dig a hole clear to China, before we finally gave up, splashed water into our “swimming pool” from a hose stretched across the street from our house, and wallowed in the resulting mud bath.

We’d made numerous trips to Lake Lugert where our dad fished and to Craterville where we rode the Ferris Wheel and the Tilt-a-Whirl, smacked into the maze of glass walls at the Fun House, and bruised our butts at the skating rink. We’d climbed all over the mountains that rimmed our small town and played dead for the turkey vultures. We’d been to the movies a couple of times. The Craig family who owned the Five & Dime store also owned the tiny movie theatre and it was only open during the summer, except for an afternoon matinee on Christmas Eve. We’d been carted off to church and revivals and church camp; spent nights on the farm at Grandma and Grandpa’s Timmons or in Guthrie with the other grandparents. We’d played and cheated at every game we knew how to play or had invented. We’d camped out in the yard, hiked the network of bar ditches and explored all the nooks and crannies around town. We’d ridden our bikes everywhere and even played countless games of bicycle hockey with baseball bats and a baseball .One time, Momma gave us a dollar and sent us to town to buy a loaf of Mead’s Fine Bread. We almost didn’t survive the hot mile walk home from town. By the time we hiked into the yard, our tongues dragged the dirt gravel road and I had smashed the loaf of bread flatter’n a pancake. Momma was mad about the squashed bread but we figured she wouldn’t make us walk to town for bread again any time soon . “We oughta clip some coupons from the Reader’s Digest and trade ’em for candy at Cothrum & Reeser’s Grocery Store.”
The folks at the grocery store always let us trade coupons for candy; didn’t matter what kind of coupons either — 10 cents off a box of laundry detergent or 5 cents off a bar of soap. With coupons we could fetch a bunch of 1-cent candy, 2-cent cinnamon suckers, 5-cent candy bars and divvy up the sweet loot between Robert, Susan and me and any neighborhood kids hanging out with us.

“I swear it’s hotter ’n the Sahara Desert!” “So, what are we gonna do now? Can’t build any more on this old tree house without nails.” “I’m thinking,” I said, wondering why I always had to come up with all the ideas. I scratch my butt, fingertips scraping the patch Momma had zigzag stitched on the seat of my shorts after I ripped them taking another trip down the Devil’s Slide during one of our Girl Scout cookouts. I didn’t have to think too hard before an idea struck — a grand idea and maybe one of my best ideas all summer long. “Here’s what we’re gonna do, see. We’re all gonna run home, make up some kinda costume and a mask, too — don’t forget a mask if you got one — and then we’ll meet back in our yard.”

We all scrambled or jumped out of the tree house and everyone darted off home. “And don’t forget to bring a brown paper bag!”

Robert, Susan and I dash home and root through the closets looking for costume stuff. Robert still had his Mad Hatter costume from his school play; Susan only needed to add her battered straw cowboy hat, gun holster riding low on her hips and cap pistols twirling and she was Anne Oakley.

I swiped Momma’s flouncy purple and pink lace petticoat she never wore and some costume jewelry. We met the other kids in the yard, our paper bags crinkling, costumes rustling and the summer heat a dull memory lost to the fun of a wishful plan. We set off and make our circuit through the neighborhood, house by house, knocking on doors or pressing doorbells . Only this time we didn’t run away and hide. We wait until the lady of the house answers the door and then we shout, “Trick or treat!” After a surprised look and oh-my-gosh-don’t-ya’ll-look-cute laughter while we giggle and rattle our paper bags for a handout, she said, “Let me see what I’ve got in the house. Don’t ya’ll look so cute!”

We made an unexpected haul of cookies and candy that hot summer afternoon going from house to house trick-or-treating.

Later, when we sprawled around in the tree house, our feet and legs swinging over the edge of the floorboards, the torture chamber below empty of prisoners, and we feasted on our treats, we decide we’d make this an annual event — Halloween in July. We didn’t have to clip any coupons from the latest Reader’s Digest or hike to town and back. And, the best thing of all? Momma didn’t even get mad.

Trick or Treat

Smell my feet

Give me something Good to eat!

--E.A. Monroe.
(Published electronically by Island Grove Press, Ontario, Canada. ISBN number pending)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Bukowski on the town

Contracted some years ago to write a column for a major magazine, I found, after 12 months (or 50,000 words)--that I couldn't write any more.

Hey, that's like a paramedic with no ambulance, a traffic cop with no whistle, a Ron Jeremy unhung.

I mean, I was a professional. Professionals don't get mental blocks. They produce work on deadline, rain or shine. They are media people, lots of ego, lots of money. This, after all, is their life's calling.

But the more I got into media the more I realized that one couldn't be on all the time. Leads to burnout, marital problems. Drinking too much.

I wondered how the big boys and girls could keep it up, month after month, year after year.

I began to study my editor closely.

Still wondering what I was going to write about next, I saw my editor get up from his VDT, light a cigarette, throw his hands in the air and say, "I can't write any more.
"Let's all go to the Grey Goat."

The Grey Goat was a swell saleman's bar, very English, woody and brassy.
It was a great place to relax while watching salesmen conning each other to refine their techniques.
It was also a hangout for journalists.

Here is where my editor would take the entire staff, leaving just a skeleton crew back at work.

After a few tankards, everybody would loosen up.

"Alcoholism," the bearded editor would say. "Occupational hazard."

Tell me about it.

At the Goat that night, there was someone from the competing paper, a man I was forced to share an award with, since the Ontario Newspapers' Association couldn't figure out which one of us was better. I still harboured some resentment.

"R" was very drunk that night and still thirsty.

"Ivan. Another beer!
"I would s*ck a c*ck for another beer!"

"Have you tried Ukrainian?" I laughed.

I got the instinctive response. He then went to get another beer.

Ah, drinking in the pubs, bragging, lying constructing great sprawling novels in the smoky air.
Feeling that one was still young, that one's body would not corrode or wither, that you could tell the whole world to go "Sierra Mike Charlie." Bart Simpson at 39.

Going after someone's wife, getting a poke in the eye and surprised after the first few shooting stars that you were not as omnipotent as you thought.

The letting off of steam, the clearing of the logjam.

The next morning, the editor was all professional again, the purposefulness, the self-confidence, writing straight and clean, getting to the heart of the matter.

"Who's your favourite poet, John?" asked halfway through the morning.

"Ovid," he said, without hesitation.

"Ovid?" I asked. "The poet of love?"

"Yes," he anwered. "And one thing that Ovid said was no water-drinker ever wrote anything worthwhile."

That night I went back to the pub, got into a brawl and made a total ass of myself.

But in the morning, could I ever write.

The logjam was long gone. Ideas seemed to fly by, almost searing me with their passage.

Mind followed hand, hand followed mind, river was jungle and jungle was river.

At least that was the way it seemed to me.

"I like the way your mind works," said the girl who just finished reading the paper.

Oh if she only knew. That night when the gentleman dapper fell into the crapper.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Grist for one's own mill

Pity the poor blogger.

We start off so well.

The lucky cyberworld is going to see how bright we are, how talented, how creative.

So we set off on our virgin blog, using just about anything we can, stealing from the best of the others, , hoping we won't get caught--and if we do, so what? It'll result in comments at least.

Ah those superiorities we present, our keen political insight, our best poetry, our way with words.

So up goes the blog, ttiled, perhaps, NOTHIN' LIKE A COOL BREEZE to almost a drumroll.

This is gonna knock 'em dead. You know your literature, you know your music, you know your current events.
And, of course, your teachers have always assured you you were brilliant....But that was way back in grade school, while you were still cute..

A week goes by.

Your post is up, but there is no comment.

Another week: Hm. Must be something wrong with my comment space. Word verification? Are people being kicked off my comments site by that infernal "You may use HTML tags such as..."?

A month.

No comments.


So you put one in yourself. "Been awfully busy this past month so I havent blogged much. My apologies."

Two months.
Well, some spam came in and that's something.

Finally, some matron from East Jesus, Saskatchewan feels sorry for you so you get a comment.
But she is a Jesus freak. Oh well. What a friend we have in Jesus. A comment is a comment.

Then she gets her entire quilting bee in on the action and the shut-ins and the little old ladies are commenting aplenty.

You are finally a real blog, with real commentators.

But somewhere down the line something happens.

You have run out of blog material. You have reprinted that last poem, the last short story draft, the last postcard you got from someone--you are runnning out of gas.

Things the neighbour said.
Things the pharmacist said
Afternoon TV show that got you thinking.

You are gasping for air.

Thoughts while cutting your grass.
Thoughts from the days when you were a teenager and someone was cutting your grass.

Secret thoughts of resentment over your partner, your spouse, your dog.

Trying to be funny...You can hear yourself trying to be funny, and so can they.

Sort of sitting on the toilet seat and grunting. This is funny?

Now is the time to pay for all that pumping yourself up with the holy trinity of alcohol, cigaretts, booze-- for all those times you fished in forbidden streams, Those whirligig ideas.

Torturing words, forcing them till they protest--all those malapropisms. "This is the Canadian Broadcorping Castration." (Oops!)

Running out of gas.

Downstairs, they are waiting for you.

"Supper," from the wife

From the son, "Supper Daddy."

But here you are stuck in the attic. Blank screen syndrome.

The thought of eating is like having someone poke you in the eye.

Finally, you make it downstairs.

Wifey is making nice. The kids are bright and beautiful.

But you have a mental block. You can't get past "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party."

Morose son-of-a-gun at the dinner table.

You rise from the table only to trip over the dog. "Son of a bitch!" You pick up the dog by the scruff, poor family whipping boy. The dog will have none of it. "You pick me up like that again motherf*cker, I'm going to bite you."

Threatened now by one's wife, one's children, one's dog.
My world and welcome to it.

Up the stairs again. An idea seems to snake its way past the cigarettes and the coffee.

You begin to write. "For the past ten years (after a decade of paganism) I have been..."(Oops.
The thought will not complete).

You have been at this machine too long. You need a break.

The family hears you galumping down the stairs. There are creaks.( Mental note to self: You will have to fix those risers. Somebody's going to kill herself going up those noisy, rickety bastards one day).
Off to the coffee shop at the end of the street.

One coffee, two.

The first inkling of a good idea. Oh the originality of it! "How to get over mental blocks."

Yep, that's it. Gotta eat the problem.

Back past the family, who are convinced you have gone mad, up three stairs at a time, up to the computer.

The outing and the exercise seems to have triggered something.

"Martha, I am a firehose of words. I can write again!"

Dead silence from downstaris. The as*hole has lost his marbles.

Yet, you are suddenly starting to write, not just words and sentences--really write.

"The cultural-philosophical attitude known as nihilism vanished just after the Russian revolution..."

It must have been the food.

Yes, it was definitely the food.

Let no active blogger or essay writer go without supper!

No food, no good.


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Home thoughts from the politically incorrect

For the past forty years, I have been (jealously) comparing myself to Peter Munk.

Who is Peter Munk?

He's one of the most successful business leaders in Canada, and one of the most influential in the world.

Peter Munk has done it all, from high-end electronics to real estate to resource development. As the founder and chairman of Barrick Gold Corporation, he leads the world's largest gold mining company.

He founded and was Chairman and CEO of Southern Pacific Hotel Corporation, the largest hotel and restaurant chain in Australasia in the 1970s

He's also a prominent philanthropist: since 1992, Peter Munk and his Foundation have given more than $80 million towards education and health care projects, $60 million of it in 2006 alone.

Mr. Munk was on CBC TV tonight, interevied by Peter Mansbridge, another prodigy of sorts, who, through no education at all, is nevertheless pretty well top dog at the CBC. Sheer, coldblooded talent, I would say.

I had actually been an admirer of both Messrs Munk and Mansbridge. They were both focused, unflappable no matter what, and very, very bright.

That's until I heard Mr. Munk's take on Canada, a country to which he, like my parents had immigrated.

He seemed to call this cold and confused Displaced Persons camp as the land of milk and honey.
...But just north of Toronto, at a Lake Couchiching Conference on Canada's prospects, serious intellectuals were wondering if there was such a thing as Canadian culture at all. ..If there was such a thing as Canadian identity even.

Seems that we (culturally?) few have given so much to so many that there seems little left.

Little factions spring up. My group is more entitled than your group-- all under the shibboleth of multiculturalism.

What in hell is Canadian identity anyway?

It used to be bankers and square dealers.
It used to be good politicians, who, just after the Second World War made Canada the best place in which to live.

It used to be seerslike Marshall McLuhan and Edmund Carpenter and Northrop Frye.

This all seemed to go by the wayside when Prime Minister Brian Mulroney said, in l984, "Don't you know this country is for sale?"

I once drove through (or rather ferried) through Baie Comeau, Mr. Mulroneys neck of the woods, across the wide Gulf of St. Lawrence from the Gaspe'.

A town full of Irishmen. They had a song there:

"Her father was a brewer
"But she was a f*cking hooer.

Here was Mr. Munk pontificating on all the good things about Canada.
Sure, he made tens of millions here by his business talent. He gives tens of millions to charity.
But in describing this sorry-ass Gulag of a country as the land of milk and honey is indeed looking at the world through rose-coloured glasses. The rich see one thing, the poor another.

I too have laboured mightily. I too have given tens of thousands of dollar to the arts...Not, of course, on Mr. Munk's scale, but I gave enough.

And today, I dumpster dive.

Where is this mythical land of milk and honey?

They are using charity money to have a conference on it.

"Is there such a thing as Canadian Identity"?

Jesus wept.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Is this the picture of Joe Pfstplk, the guy with the black cloud over his head?

I am too dumb to access any recent pictures of my 100-year-old mother; I switched computers and that's maybe where I lost them--but I wish I could put her picture up here all the same.

Questions come up: What is the colour of your mother's eyes? Strangely, few can answer.

Anyway, I am always amazed at something called Mother-wit--Pallas Athena for you classical types-- the driving intelligence of wandering and violent Odysseus, from the ODYSSEY, that old Greek Bible,(Part Two) that we seem to ignore these days of so-called enlightenment.

The old myths and and proto-Bibles have a certain fascination for some of us.

I saw myself at one point as Odysseus, took up the Odyssey myself, came back home only to find that the suitors had won.

Sh*t. This wasn't in the book.

Maybe that's why universtities these days don't put much stock in ancient myths.

While at Toronto U, I kept looking in the stacks for old copies of student notes in Plato's academy.
Couldn't find any.

A librarian finally set me straight. These were religions.
And my classics prof, who English, and (therefore?) somewhat biased, said that the three Big Philosophers were the world's first--wait for it!-- fascists, Communists.

Ah well. So many Englishmen seem to go that way. Maybe Dr. French had been in a fight with Dr. Roth over in the philosophy department. I don't know.

But there has to be something said for mother-wit, a quality somehow lacking in all the great philosophers.

Says the late and great Kurt Vonnegut Jr.:" A Socratic dialogue:
'The whole is greater than the part, right kid?
'Ok. Now bend over.'

"All Greek philosyphy is one big bum-f*ck."

I am glad to see that Kurt Vonnegut Jr. never lost his edge. Heh.

So I go by mother-wit.

My mother had grade three education, but she could speak and write in five languages (Most Europeans can).

She got me into a mind-bend that suggests when a society's icon flip over, accelerated social change will surely come. She knows about social change. She has been through a number of wars.
(Most striking, almost crass example of a society's icons flipping over, is, of course, is 911).

She also said pictures of the dead in newspapers are always grainy. The same with the typography on the money of a failed nation.

Where does an old peasant lady pick up all those things?

Don't know.

I have, for some reason dug up an old picture of myself.

Oh I hope--I sincerely hope that my mother is wrong.

It is grainy.

Maybe I'm trying to ward off something.

Bit mawkish, what?



P.S.: My mother looks exactly like the Queen of England, Elizabeth II.

And, darn it, so do I.

Heaven forbid that I've always wanted to be a queen! :)


Thursday, August 09, 2007

The green fuse that drives the flower

My balcony garden is somehow a barometer to forecast what's going to happen next.

Every time I get depressed, a festoon of tomatoes will nudge me on the shoulder as I sit drinking and thinking on my balcony. "Hey man, things grow under you. You so green you'd make Al Gore seem a piker."

Yep, I talk to my plants. They talk to me.

A Shasta Daisy I named Blanche, one day shouted, "Avalanche!"
Yep, a daisy saved my life that day. :)

Lately, though the garden seems full of not altogether good portents.

Something is eating my beans. They have grown really fast, but there have been a number of windy days. The lower part of their stems gets stressed, they heel way over. A couple of these pod-type beans have died.

Had some not altogether good news from my family.

When one is in an emotional maze, sometimes one inflicts pain on oneself to sort of get out of the trap.
All sorts of shoes drop.
Your bank account shrivels.

You are starting to eye the supermarket dumpster again. Food banks will kill you dead.

Seems the gods have put the vegetables out in plastic bags today, so Ivan can window shop.
Broccoli a bit rotten, but the cabbage is still green, and onions are immortal.

Pain, embarrassment--anything to break the ribbon of darkness. You dumpster dive.

But a close look shows that today they have taken out all of the Gardening Centre. It is all there in the dumpster, dead vegetation now, but here and there still a little green shoot poking out of it's little square bit of turf. It is demanding,, "Plant me, mother...!"

I have a closer look. It is Victoria Blue, a border flower. Three of them still have leaves, though the summer heat has made those oval leaves brittle as glass now. They will fall down before you take the little plants home.

I take these little Salvia Farinacea plants with their little plugs and plant them right alongside my dying beans.

Three weeks go by. Nothing. All that's left of the Victoria Blue is shoots, black and bare.

...But today, lookee here...

Little green leaves all around the blackened shoots.

Ah, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

I was probably educated beyond my intellect at that very good English course.

But I think I'm starting to understand.

Plants really know.

And they somehow put themselves in the right place at the right time.

Victoria Blue is starting to beautify my garden.

The hint of winter has passed.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

How to be inchoate (that's a big word, like llama dung) and still hope to be--interesting.

~When you can't get it together, but the emotion feels right~

I am, for some reason, thinking of INSIDE OUR HANDS, OUTSIDE OUR HEARTS, The Emotional Being as I keep tinkering with my play, THE FIRE IN BRADFORD.

I read somewhere that you shouldn't start something you can't finish (and I'm having a devil of a time finishing this!), but here are some cursory stabs, notes, and a complete act.

I am moved to reprint some of these efforts because I am very much taken with the poetry of INSIDE OUR HANDS, OUTSIDE OUR HEARTS. She (What's the lady's name anyway?) writes to feelingly about love, and sometimes the loss of love.

Some notes and stabs then, as I switch from the novel form to the play.
(They taught us how to do these things at Ryerson U, but I have quite forgotten how to write plays).
Here goes nothin', from my mish-mash of notes and false starts:

Layout: Well-lit Danish-cottage style living room, kitchenette in back. Furniture all solid oak or pine.

They have plumped the professon onto the middle of a C-shaped chesterfield.
Lief (the husband) is holding a drink in his hand. The professor watches him weaving.

LIEF: I don't want any monkey business, Celia and David. But I think I feel the room swaying. I'm going to have to go to bed. To bed....And remember, David. No monkey business. We just brought you here because you were tired.

Lief turns to stage right and retires.

Lights dim.

NARRATOR: And suddenly I became aware of how lonely I was, me the divorcee' and frequent near-separado from my subsequent live-ins, the man of many wives and Master of none. It seemed I was suddenly curved up in a ball of loneliness, vulnerability, want. I just wanted Celia, anybody, anybody like her to hold me.

(This bit of monologue so reminds me of some of sadder love poems of The Emotional Being in her blogs)

Anyway, ACT II (Below) shows how the professor got into the menage -a- trois in the first place..


Scene One

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

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

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

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

PROFESSOR: I know your're a fart smastard, Lief. I know you've read Kant. 'A Posteriori. One of Kant's propositions...The one that got me, of course, was "A posteriori". Looks like it's got you too.

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

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

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

Celia's head is now almost underneath the professor's arm. Lief fumbles in his right-hand pocket for the keys.

They steer the professor around the front of the car to the sidewalk, so they can dump him in the back seat.
Lief starts the SUV. There is a pause.

Lief turn back towards the prof, who is really doing a bad example of a person lighting a cigarette. He keeps stabbing the back of Lief's driver's seat with the fiery cigarette end.

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

Professor: F*ck you, good friend Lief. The world is my ashtray!

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

CELIA: He's a brilliant writer.

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

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

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

LIEF: Fast reflexes.

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

And they are off.

Scene II

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

Lights: Up.

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

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

CELIA: We should have some music.

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

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

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

Music: Up.

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

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

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


.....end Scene Two

Ah well.

Short of blog material today. The heat, the heat. That's my excuse.

But, bigod, one is risque'. ..Just read in Wired that that was the way to go in blogs. :)


Monday, August 06, 2007


I don't know how great my mind is, but The Walking Man twigged me onto something when he wrote

years now i have been walking the rooms of this place knowing that i keep seeing the same rooms at times like a fool in the deep woods without a compass, using only the sun to tell him directions but there is no sun in here except what comes through the glass free opening.

This brought me to a chapter of my novel that I wrote thirty years ago. I think, in a parallel universe, we are on the same page, viz.,


( Light Over Newmarket)

If you look out at your world, Kevin Logan, you will observe that for the past ten years, mankind has been hotfooting it back to the dark ages.
Children of God, sorcerer's apprentices, encounter groupers, radical feminists, touchy-feelers, worshippers of the almighty IS in the Eberhard seminars--all of them are clamoring for your attention and all of them are on a sprint back to the dark ages.

We live in dangerous times. All of society's icons have flipped over and the scene is ripe for any demagogue with sound business training to slouch not only towards Bethlehem but also towards Santa Barbara and Inuvik and Toronto.

Snapped continuity. You can feel it as surely as you have felt the death of that blues music you were so attracted to, for the blues are an antidote for cultural oppression and the Irish aren't exactly the least repressed people in history.

Something oily and corporate has encrusted itself on men's souls. You know this as surely as you know that you are a part of a business civilization that has stopped being a civilization proper, and is therefore in trouble. Corporations are immortal while we are not, and that's a large part of the problem. We serve a clacking electronic god who is becoming suddenly very aware of his godhood. Man remains man.

We feel a lack. An important religious element has vanished and we are left to our own devices, rationalizations, social experiments, totems, while psychiatrists commit suicide and our children overdose in the plazas.
And in the wings, black hoods and candles, bells and books.

Join the gathering inquisition? Burn the infidels, books, state capitols? Certainly a temptation for the powerless people who sense that they are indeed powerless and have therefore nothing to lose through a cathartic release of emotion, of the loosing of the bonds that make a civilization one of work, one which gives us the feeling that we are important, self-sufficient, aristocratic and inevitable. Ah, but then there's this Devil. The Devil, it would seem, has a human face; he can be beaten with a stick and be driven out by fire. The burn-the-devil movement has appeal. It's the cosmically conscious, the spiritually beautiful against the narrow and Faustian professionals who are about to give up the reins anyway.

And yet how helpless the cosmic people seem unable, more often than not, to even feed themselves, unable to exist without a dimly understood technology, unable to resolve family anxieties or personal problems in a society that endlessly promises relief and never delivers.

We watch Third World high priests giving lesson to grown people on how to make love, how to experience emotion, how to be assertive, how to survive. Protestantism and technology has somehow erased the basic wisdom that any peasant outside the west possesses. We appear to be a culture of children, adolescents at best, dangerous toys in our heads, leading us down the garden path for the hundredth time.

Yet as the middle ages encroach upon us, the encroachment is hastened by an awakened Third World, which, curiously retains many of the values, folkways, icons so deeply hankered after by those in the west who have lost such things. Most of the world remains in the middle ages. It is only our island culture that can produce the hippie, the Jesus freak and the unmolested radical student. Basic survival is not a problem with us, while spiritual survival is a vary urgent necessity. The hope of a growing segment of North American civilization seems to lie in the Third World itself, which remains in the dark ages so narrowly averted by a lucky historical turn in western civilization.
And yet can a society of the electric toothbrush, digital toilet and television cope with a Third World where men are, after all, men, women women and the peripheral misfits left to their own devices? The Third World peasant is the ultimate free enterpriser, who has no support or technology whatsoever and makes scratch, more often than not in an economy that would baffle the architects of the New World Order.

The cat is really out of our bag. The Third World does see the manual helplessness, moral ambiguity and spiritual confusion of the North American and the local swamis are only too happy to lead the North American into the deepening night.

We have created a culture of storm and stress where whatever has been up is now being pulled down, where the truck driver feels completely equal to the brain surgeon, where woman wants to be over man, where the sexual acrobat has equal standing with the Pope, and the alcoholic, madman and homosexual is a high literary figure.

The Third World is upon us, and we are not resisting. We welcome the dark ages--we had the technology, the savvy, a can-do attitude, but not the wisdom. Wealth used to bring the gift of time, time to think, read, play musical instruments, reflect, develop.

The gift of time has only made alcoholics, drug addicts and mystical basket cases out of us; produced two generations of people who do not know what a conscience is, what shame is, what love is, what compassion is, what rejection, failure and pain are as the new unholy trinity, what the silent keen is to shout out loud, "Behold, I am a man!" or "Behold, I am a woman!"
And the children: only the babysitter is in there pitching. We relinquish to institutions, to governments. Men flee from women, women from men; the therapists are having a field day. Engineers from MIT are incapable of raising an erection. A Philippine shaman has to teach the inventor of plastic hearts how to play hanky-panky.

So we move from excesses to emptiness, personal and cultural. There are hardly any new songs; light shows are going out; the theatre is obsessed with young men who suck the sweat off horses and the music has returned to the Fifties in a dangerous retro that signals a dissatisfaction with the present, and a cultural vacuum that Europe cannot fill any more. We have no confidence in the present and this is a bad state of affairs for the key culture in the world.

And so the sensitive, the moody and the mystically inclined are leaving the established institutions opting for communal farming, transcendental meditation, cosmic awareness. Empty-handed soldiers are coming home, home to the middle ages. And while this happens, the unestablished and the unlettered are slowly filling in the spaces left by capable idealists, and we see the universities teeming with writers who can't write, mathematicians who can't add, systems analysts who can't do math, all of this leading us to the dark ages.

Perhaps it's for the best. Societies become stagnant; peasants scratch the ground around pyramids. Yet it may be sad to see mankind failing its final examination and never reaching the end of night. For many of the world's problems can now be solved and most of its inhabitants can now be fed...There's only this...devil.
And then the voice stopped. I moved from the table to lie beside sun-hot Valerie. I felt a deep shudder.

...end chapter

Some of you may have read this before, and may be sort of "Ivaned-out."

But I think The Walking Man, in his blog, is producing some pretty good stuff.
E.A. Monroe, another excellent blogger, things both TWM and I are motivated by fear.

Very probably. That Pteradactyl is still out there.


Saturday, August 04, 2007

Ever since my schizophrenic baby left me, I am cell-phoning my answering service

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

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

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

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

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

Wheeeeee. Whoooooosh. Nininaninaninoona!

"You are crazed," said the nymph, who was now my mistress.

"I am crazed," I agreed.

Run, don't run. Grab a plane, don't grab a plane. Kick ass. Don't kick ass. One million dollars at stake in bank account and property...And I had to go on this marathon writing thing, leaving myself as weak as light beer.

The wood nymps starts to pour the love on, trying to get me to relax, to pour out the madness, extend it, get me back to myself, whoever that was.

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


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

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

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

I begin to write.

And it is sh*t.

I mean, see for yourself.

The creature has been given many names over the years, incubus, complex, obsessivbe-compulsive, but the phantasm remains.

The phantasm appears just before adolescence, it seems to go away just after puberty, but it is only tamped down. It does not entirely go away.

The creature seems more prevalent among Eastern Europeans.

A story is told about a York University professor, brilliant man, but he had this little god that was terrifying and addling him.

I personally worked with an Australian prof, who confided, "I've got this little man in me. He went away for a while.
"But then I got this job...He was back. 'You again,' I said." "And don't repeat any of this to anyone!"

That creature is the back of your brain. Racial memory, probably. Or more likely, some godawful skulduggery (skulbuggery?) in your family tree

It seems to want to sink you, like a succubus.
Or sit on your chest and make you helpless, like an incubus.

I think Arthur Schopenhauer traced it back to the mother and the horrrors of womankind. Arthur Schopenhauer hated his mother. She threw him down a flight of stair once.

Freud gave it scientific names, like complex.

But in the end, it is like an albatross.

A phone call today seems to have set me right over the edge.

You got a little man inside you?



Thursday, August 02, 2007

In journalism, they carry knives this long. In academia, they say, "You call that a knife?"

How cruel and flashlight-shining-in-your-face is the world.

I mean the world of writing, specifically, journalism.

There we were, seven of us, from the top universities on the continent, all of us summer reporters--not internes, not gofers, real reporters for four months.

I was in special awe of the guy from Princeton, scared to death of the U of T guy, who had been editor of the Varsity, greatly impressed by the UBC man, certainlly scared of Marci McDonald, also U of T. Then there was the guy from CUNY, New York; there was a sister of Jeannie Beker, CITY TV superstar.

Holy cow. I was just a simple shepherd who somehow got some poetry published at Ryerson Polytech's literary magazine. My entrance papers to the Toronto Star consisted of my poor poetry that a top editor had read. He had liked it.

The work was hard and gruelling. You were basically doing all the journalistic chores, from rewriting stories, to headline writing, to business news. Most days and nights you sat at the City Desk like a fireman waiting for a fire in the form of happenings. Things did happen. You had to think on your feet, get to the point of the story, the heart of it and put it out in so many minutes and in the proscribed nuimber of lines and words; you'd think there was a paper shortage, you had to write so tightly, not a word wasted.

I could handle the work, but found some of the university kids were beginning to flag.

The UBC guy was having a nervous breakdown.
"I am overwhemed by my own incompetence."

The Princeton fellow could hardly keep up. Had been in Einstein's department once, and he couldn't keep up.
This was the big leagues. The Darwin principle was operating.

The media family girl gave it all up and she and I started prancing around the newsroom, trying to elist as many reporters as we could in doing a Madrigal. It kind of worked. We got them singing. Anything to take the pressure off.

Basically, it was the need for speed and accuracy, to take a complicated, libel-mined legal story, for example, to
get to the heart of it and produce it in fifteen minutes, because you were always on top of deadline for the four editions of the paper every day. You also had to "match" (rewrite- and- add- to) Globe & Mail stories; the competing paper came out earlier than The Star, so we copied like crazy.

"Journalism is a young man's game," columnist Gary Lautens would warn us.

He would look over at the Varsity girl. "What's a nice broad like you doing in a crummy trade like this?" Oh yes, these were the "Man's world" Sixties!

Popular that year was Alan Silletoe's "Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner".

Oh yeah.

I would watch my field of summer reporters, sensed their tongues hanging out.

Some began to drop. Marilyn Beker wanted out.

But here and there one of them would get a by-line, their name in the paper.

I saw many of my stories by-lined, but my name seemed to vanish by the time it got through seven editors.

I could handle the work, but I was not getting the by-lines.

Marci McDonald was from U. of T. Marcie McDonald was gorgeous.

Marci McDonald got the top stories, the sexiest stories.

And all the while we were told, "There will be no stars at The Star".

All the while, Marci McDonald was becoming a star.

Oh the loneliness of the long distance runner.

My own tongue was beginning to hang out. I was getting no bylines.

I stopped being careful. I began to "invent" happenings. Anything to get that by-line. It was only a month before I'd be getting back to Ryerson.
Lots of money, high pay, but still no story with my name on it.
Only Marci and the guy from Simon Frazer.

The four months soon ended. We had been so highly paid. They gave us an extra week's paycheck for being good
boys and girls.


All this effort and nothing in The Star with my name on it.

O Lord won't you buy me a Mercedes-Benz!

I graduated from Ryerson, went on to a Master's degree, but still smarted over not being a star at the Star.

I went underground for a while, approached The Star from a freelancing angle, and Wham. Big by-line!

They were going to pull all the streetcars out of Toronto and sell them to Abu Dhabi.

I got wind of the story and made the front page of Starweek Magazine, carried by The Star. Very quickly, I was promoted to weekend editor of Starweek.

And then the knives came out.

"No stars at The Star."

Darn, what a heavily edited newspaper.

How heavily edited we all were.

This was really American Idol, but at a more commonplace level.

Quite a welcome to the real world.

My obsession with The Star never quite ebbed.

More recently, I was a heavy contributor to Antonia Zerbisias' blog in The Star.

And then they started going after Antonia.

What a heavily-edited paper is The Star.

But hell, shucks, it was my alma mater, my entry ticket into the real world.

I moved to academia, where they carry knives this long.