Monday, September 17, 2007

All work and no play makes Jack.

One of the things I used to know for sure before I lost my marbles was that all work and no play makes Jack.

Possessed of only pen and paper and working like a devil I found myself one day propelled into uppermiddleclass
comfort and good food and thought to myself, "doesn't everybody?"

Well, no.

For most folks life is failure, rejection, pain.
I had put up with "present" pain for future gain, that good old middleclass motto and while others played, I was dead serious, the very image of that cartoon character with sparks coming off his nose from the grindstone he so assiduously applying himself. I recall chuckling at the the caption, "I fight poverty--I work"

But this was the Sixties and Seventies, a time when anybody in Canada with a modicum of talent could make large bucks in journalism and advertising. As for the novels, you knew your way around and would sometimes get the magazine you worked for to serialize something of yours. My novels would rarely impress the editor of the Big Canadian Market--the Star Weekly. She was sometimes described as a "Victorian spinster with this huge brain", sequestered in her office at the Simpson Tower On Bay and Queen and cutting cheques for lady writers of
fiction and exurban fantasy. She was a tough market to cracks, so I went around her and got stuff in something called CANADIAN PANORAMA, which travelled inside the Star Weekly.

I was soon noticed by Peter Gzowski, the then-editor of he magazine, was given a fulltime job as staff writer for that publication, and I was on my way. Pay then was $130 a week, and in today's money hat was $60,000 a year and nothing to sneeze at, certainly not for a boy who was one day dropped in a potato field--his mother may as well have been a cow--and shown a meadow which would be his organic garden. "Graze, kid."

War, pestilence and famine soon changed that and I was suddenly the Canadian kid with the high ambitions, wanting to avoid the middleclass altogether and marry or bully my way straight into the upper.
I made it, but so many of my peers did not. Nor talented enough, not lucky enough, not smart enough.
I do recall some comments on Norman Podhoretz' similar climb in his book, "Making It", some of my Jewish friends wondering precisely what it was that Norman had made. A man of Mr. Podhoretz own background went on to snort that the book may as well have been called Kik*'s Peak.

Well, I was at Chuck's or Ski's Peak. There weren't too many of us up there, we were enabled by the likes of the late and great Ed Mirvish of Toronto, and writing about the arts (Mr. Mirvish's passion)--yielded solid coin. The beauty was that you didn't have to be terribly accurate as long as you spelled the Star's Name right.

One day I gave it all up.

"I am an artist, Martha."

Hah. "Build that addition to the house, artist. Here is a broom, artist. Who in hell do you think you are, artist?"

I was certainly not as good as I thought I was.
Took forever to write the book--nose to the grindstone again--but I did and surprised the hell out of everybody.
I did have to put the book out at my own expense--blow to the ego!--but my friends in the review business took it seriously, every bank manager had a copy of the review on his or her wall and I was on my way.
Grants, fellowships and teaching positions somehow followed and I became something of a Duddy Kravitz. Certainly dabbled in real estate.

But then came the age of forty the time of the BIG WHAM.
Something happened, nothing happened, but suddenly I stopped. Can't go another mile. Yuppie flu.
Now was the time to pay for all those superiorities, now was payback time for all those energies one had expended and never fully got back.

Oh yes, there were plenty of palliatives. The drinking, the thinking, the toying with the idea of a mistress--not a literary mistress this time, but a real one. Yuppie palliatives.
But no further progress with the career.

What to do. Cut an run? That was the simplest. But it was a solution that was okay for the self, but not for those who had been around you. Leaving the family to fortune, off to make another fortune.

And landing flat on your ass.

Floor cleaner in a factory. Also had to clean the washrooms.

Amid the farts and belches coming out of the stalls, you finally realized where your new course of action had taken you.
In the apartment elevator, going home at night, smelling of ammonia and Old Dutch.
"Sweep, sweep sweep, eh Ivan?" my chainstore owning father-in-law would say.
So hire me in your stores," I'd said.

He did.

Back up he ladder of success again, the Nassau holidays, the condo in Fr. Myers. Doesn' t everybody?

And then back to the fine madness.

"I am an artist, Martha."

Off to an exotic land this time Gaugin and his Wahines.

And having again to put the book out at my own expense.

There is a quasi- country song by some Winnipeg group, a lot like Blue Rodeo.

It goes, "You piss me off, you f*cking jerk."

In Gogol's Diary of a Madman, the character goes off on a similar series of odysseys.

"Oh, here in Spain they have no manners. They beat you often, and put you into chains. Call you a madman.
"Spain is a terrible country."

Well, I suddeny feel I am in "Spain".

And they do knock me around quite a bit.

"Go back to Yugoslavia, ya bum."

Halleluja. Bum again.

Uncle Vanya. Chekhov figure. Stopped.

Got to get out of the Chekhovian doldrums and get a job.

Time to put the dream aside. Again.

Sha-na-na. Get a job!



Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

First thought that comes to mind is, "Wow"! This makes me wonder if writing is worth it all. The up and down ladder cllimbing, the changes is persona, just the indifference causes me to step back.

I think I have some thinking to do on this post still. I shall be hack.

Morning Ivan

EA Monroe said...

Ivan, I caught a bit of an interview with Alan Greenspan yesterday as I was going in and out and he said he "was a social climber, wasn't everyone?"

Graduated from art school, snubbed teaching, ready to go to San Miguel to study painting, house burned down, got a job, played rock 'n roll. Still working those 50+ hours every week and grabbing at the artist's dream.

Opps. Somewhere along the way the middle class has almost become extinct! And the gap widens.

Writing is worth it, even if only for self-discovery and maybe for those lucky enough, persistance pays.

Who knows? ~EA

benjibopper said...

Faith Nolan says "the richest in the world - poorest in the heart."

your words convince me to leave the upper crust to its own devices, i'm happy right here in the middle.

of course, in my case i'm very lucky so far to have a spouse who makes good money doing somethings she loves, which allows me to make much less money doing something i love.

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

I think I am with Benji on this one. I am quite happy being in the middle. I have enough, I do not need to be the richest and besides I am pretty sure I would not fit in with the upperclass. Too many I have met are superficial and materialistic. Oh no, not for me. I know they all can not be that way... so I will not say all are superficial and such, but those I have met here, well, I wouldn't want to be them. If it means I lose my heart, I would rather be who I am now.

Ivan, I can not imagine you as anything but wonderful and so if life gives us grapes let's make some wine and have some cheese. If we get lemons well then I will put up an stand, make some lemonade, and sell it if need be.

Tara said...


You are psychic.

Alan Greenspan worked in an office at the Simpson Tower, Bay Street, Toronto, just a floor or two down from where I worked for the Canadian Magazine.
He in fact wrote an essay on his climb up the ladder and published it in the Toronto Star.
My surprise was that he was not only the best lawyer, but also a good writer.
He is now defending our runaway Toronto publisher, Conrad Black, who is accused in Chicago of using big bucks from his corporation for himself.
I certainly have an affinity for Alan Greenspan, and strangely, I do respect Conrad Black, whom I had seen for years as Ayn Rand's Howard Ruark.
I don't like Ayn Rand's ideas, but the woman could write when she wanted to.
What a little palm reader you are!

Ivan said...


faith Nolan and St. Paul are both right, though I like St. Pauls apochrypha, where he says "if they sh*t on you in one city, move to another city."
Yep, one's soul is a precious thing and they will have it!
Ah, I too had a spouse...

Ivan said...

Good morning Tara.

You are sweet.


Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

The typo demon has taken over my keyboard. I meant back..ugh

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

smiles... said...


Whoops, from the "sublime" to the ridiculous...I got my Greenspans mixed up.

I meant Eddie Greenspan, the Canadian lawyer and not Alan Greenspan, the Fed guru.


Ivan said...



EA Monroe said...

Ivan, I heard a week or so ago someone was making a movie of Atlas Shrugged.

Hah. I saw this morning where A. Greenspan was doing a little backpeddling on what he said about the Iraq war and oil. I guess the bigwiggos must've told him to shutup if he wants to sell his book. Maybe A. Greenspan should go the Broadway show tune route? said...

A movie of Atlas Shrugged?

A Conservative movie at this time?

The mind boggles.


Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

My gosh.. Atlas Shrugged? I had to do a paper on that book. I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw it for the first time. I thought to myself, "And you want me to analyze this book, are you crazy"?

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

By the way ... Good evening everyone. said...

Guten Abend Mein feine fraulein.


the walking man said...

I've never known riches without nose to the grindstone and without thought I let the grindstone take off my face and then my skull as I kept shoving forward;a pencil in an electric sharpener.

I may be a sharp pencil now but just a nub is left of what I was. Funny I wasn't chasing money as much as doing something I was good at and it ruined my body.

Now again I am doing something that I believe comes to me from my Irish ancestors and that is words...putting words together, but I don't want them to ruin me like the other.

There just isn't enough pencil left to waste on bullshit, so for me I will write, right. No I won't try to sell it or chase after some editors eye.

If I write it and they don't come I don't care because I will still write it until the pencil can no longer be put to a point, I will write 'til all that is left is the metal collar holding a perfectly unused eraser.

may I humbly suggest you keep your nose away from the grindstone and instead just turn it off and go to work on your own terms. You are accomplished enough for at least that much respect Ivan,


mark said...


What a flash!


Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

Wie sind Sie lieb Ivan? Es ist ruhig heute Abend.

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

Als de nachthemelen val zal slapen wacht ik Afwijking en droom said...


Been busy.

And yes, I am twisted.

Ivan said...

Ich bin ein door Mäuschen

Johann said...

My bullshit fonts in German have jammed up...Strain on the vocabulary

¿Como esta, amiga...? said...


Do you mean deviant. I am. Yes I am. :) said...

Sound like low bank Dutch to me.

Bist dich ein dietsch maedschen?

(Or, as they may say in Quebec,
ette vous le "tulip tramper"? said...

Schlaf gut

And good night.

eric1313 said...

If I could just write and not worry about getting a meal...

Then I'd be richer than Solomon, happier than a pig in a bad septic field, and wiser than the fool in the rain, as Robert Plant sang, standing on the corner, waiting for my love all the long gray day--waiting and waiting and waiting...

...on the wrong block.

The fool ignorant of all distractions, save his own ignorance, and his beautiful companion known as bliss.

taptaptaptaptaptaptap click.

eric1313 said...

How's the writing going, Ivan? Sounds like your ready to begin another novel.

"Saturnalia by the Boondocks"

or other consuming madness...

Ha! "Consuming Madness", a tale of the tides of creative fortunes, and real fortunes squandered in the pursuit of that one, perfect line that says everything.

the walking man said...

So my insanity is that apparent even through the words I write...I guess I have made it then.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Hey, in my eyes you've already made it-- this coming from a guy on the ladder of success who took his first step and missed the first rung.

benjibopper said...

eins, zwie, drei, funf, fier

uksi, kaksi, kolme, mina en olut eritain hauska

saya belajar bahasa indonesia untuk tiga minggu

that's all i got.

benjibopper said...

speaking of play, and also of the Atlantic Film Festival, I wandered by there last night and was given some free tickets to an American Indie flick called 'Common', which though amateurish in writing, acting, and camerwork, was charming and enjoyable. said...


Read you loud and clear.

Elizabeth Smart comes to mind again. "Near Grand Central Station, I Sat down and wept."
How many a train that lady missed, she so beautiful and comely that you just had to make love to her--anybody.
Life somehow defiles the beautiful.

Ugly, Machiavellian people with high IQ's--read journalists?--will f*ck you right up.
Everybody pisses on Britney Spears.
But do they rememember that she is talented?--at least was once a wunderkind?

I hear you on the starving thing, Eric.
Been there many times--still am.
But--just from what you have written here, look at the unexpected reward.

Ivan said...


That's Hemingway talk.
To produce the perfect sentence, yes.

But like the aspiring comic strip writer who one day makes it, you will be asked to produce masterpiece on demand--several times a month. And perfect proof copy every time.
You need to find a kindly bookstore owner with an oldfashioned paten press in the back room.
That's where it starts.

Go visit E. A. Monroe in Oklahoma?
She is kindhearted and I think she has access to a press.
Am I pressganging you, Liz?
You are a beautiful writer and you can spot talent in other people.
I can spot talent in other people.

Ivan said...

The Walking Man,

I have heard it said, in my coffee house days that "if you culd only reach one person, then you have suceeded."

Ivan. said...


I can't see today.

More typos than Gutenberg.

Just like to respond to Eric's last comment.
Yep, there is another novel, at least in the idea stage.

The danger is that it will come out flip and glib, like a bad copy of good old Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Something tells me to take up the path of that brilliant workin-class kid, Albert Camus.
Seems that this is what the film makers are missing today.
Movies about the fall.
Cautionary tales.

What they could have done with Vanilla Sky!

Ivan said...


You are a person of great ability.

Give 'er time.


TomCat said...

All this makes me glad that I'm just a political writer, poor and unambitious.

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

Sie sind Herr Ivan, Sie bloß verstecken in einer Haut nicht gedreht, die Ihnen nicht passt.

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

Kommen Sie auf über zu meinem Ort und haben Sie ein Stolichnaya. Wir können die ganze Nacht reden.


Donnetta Lee said...

Ivan: Well, the world doesn't spin around--it kinda goes up and down and up and down--or maybe side to side like a pendulum. Such is life.
Donnetta said...


Oh hell. Run for assemblyman. Run for dog catcher. It's exciting.

Ivan said...


Ich bin berauschte in der tag und cannischt sprechen deutsch ganz gut.
Forgessen alle.
Abo ein prosit fier der nacht mit der Slolichnaya.

My German fonts have all but dried up as I dry out, so I think we'd better swtch to plain American.


Yiddische maedele?

Mein passt frau iss. said...


Was it from the movie, Love Story?

The opening scene where some students are passing a cartoon and a note around with the explanatory caption, "There is no gravity. The earth sucks." :)


EA Monroe said...

Pressganged indeed! We print all kinds of books -- perfect bound, tape bound, spiral bound, saddle-stitched, etc. Usually, when I have a wip completed and edited, I create the Word file into a PDF and Big Darrel runs 2 copies for me on the Docutech, 8-1/2x11; I have Little Daryl print a cover on the Indigo color press (sometimes I just do a black and white on my laser printed on a cover stock), and beg Gail in the bindery to do a coil spiral binding.

Then I have something I can sit down and proof read through without wasting a whole bunch of paper -- and I let my friend Deloris beta read and mark corrections, etc.

Deloris is put out with me now because I left her hanging in the middle of Book #4 back last December and I haven't finished editing/rewriting it yet. She lets me email chapters to her and she sends me back corrections or questions. I'm lucky to have her.

If one has access to a scanner, they could do their own cover art, make a pdf from their word file and take it to a copy shop like Kinkos.

I think some writers (like Miss Write) might be using a service like Bootlocker to print out a couple of proof copies.

Hope this helps!

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

Alright Ivan. Back to plain old English.

eric1313 said...

This was some great reading.

Too bad you guys are excluding us ignorant Philistines with all the deutsch schlaben-flaben sexy time talk.

Götterdämmerung is a cool word.

Leibensrom is not cool--nor were the words for 'life unworthy of living', or 'genetic higiene'.

Damn nazis.

Even bad copy of Vonnegut is good copy, you kow?

eric1313 said...


O h, good! I was worried you huys were going to keep going on teuton-speak forever...

eric1313 said...

her + guys = huys

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

Hey Eric,

I was going to switch to French or Italian, but thought, maybe later. How are you?

Where is Ivan, that sweet man has left us. ::tTaps foot::

Josie said...

Ivan, I think a lot of it is plain dumb luck. How else can you account for the multimillionaire Danielle Steeles, Jackie Collins, and all those gag-inspiring writers being so successful?

I think getting published in Canada has been difficult for any Canadian writer. And some of the ones who have been published have had maybe one good book, and they coast along on their reputations, continuing to publish crappy books. There are a few women Canadian writers, who shall remain nameless, but you know who I mean, who have done that.

Maybe somehow with all the chopping and changing in your life, your lost your momentum?

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

By the way, I am not getting into the book talking ... I have had enough of professors today and their talk of books and such. Oh, and did I mention I hate calculus?

eric1313 said...


I hate calc, as well. That's what I liked about Wayne State's writing program: almost zero math, all arts instead. Love it!

Ivan must have his nose to the grind stone.

Or be getting a snootfull at the moment. Drunk Ivan is always fun to talk to.

Shesawriter said...

See that's just it, Ivan. While you were working, being a good little professional writer, I was playing. And now I'm trying to "play" catch up.

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...


Ivan is an interesting man and he does not have to be intoxicated to be amusing. He has it inside him and even more so when he is sober.

We each have our vices to extend ourselves. Mine, well, ha! I am constantly searching for love. My vice is love, perhaps that is why I am denied it.

eric1313 said...


I was kidding about that. I know he'd laugh at what I said.
My vices are very similar--including a lack of seriousness that extends to too many things in life.

Thinking about love too much. That's also me. And I also think that's why I'm denied it's embrace. But I've managed to stop worrying about it too much and not take love seriously anymore.

My hearts been broke too often! Let someone else have that. I want to write and later, love will find me.

And I hope I'll be serious enough to accept it.

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...


It could be that I misunderstood your comment. I certainly could not imagine that you would be that insensitive. But I have to say, Ivan, well, he is special. I do not care what he says about that. There is something about him that I find intriguing. So I am a bit protective.

My apologies.

eric1313 said...

No problem Tara, it's all good.

When I saw your comment, I smiled.

People take me too seriously, sometimes. I like to kid and joke, but I forget to type smiley faces. I like to think my words are smiles themselves, or frowns or tears.

Sometimes, I'm wrong.

eric1313 said...


Hope you're at work on another.

I'll drop back tomorrow.

Oh--it is tomorrow. Anyway, when the sun comes up.

I fully expect to see a Vonnegut masterpiece. You have the words and the voice. Run with it. said...


The Canadian east coast rocks no matter what they do, film, TV or music--especially the music.

This seems quite a common occurrence. Oppress a culture and it becomes highly creative. said...


The medium is the message?

But then, perhaps like me, you had to handle copy on baton twirlers, town boosters, cagey old bastards designing better mousetraps-- and other optimists.
Oh if for just one day they'd leave out all the flyers and have samples of creativewriting by the populace. What a fresh breeze that would be.


Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

Goodnight Everyone... no one seems to be up and I am here alone...

soft love Ivan said...


I know exactly whom you mean (See? I went to night school). :)

er, "Whom are you?").

Anyway the lady writer in question has gotten me at least one job and her husband has given me invaluable advice on the life of the writer.
But, unfortunately, she has been producing some books that have made politically correct flatness a virtue.
Give me back the days of the great Canadian prairie and East Coast writers. They could do it best.

What is out today in canadian letters is second-hand New York social-cultural economic machine-speak Say it on. Cultural rot.

Ivan said...


Nose to the ashtray more like it.

Going through severe withdrawal--tobacco is more of an addiction than heroin...I might sell out my daugher for a pack of smokes the way things are going.
Oh what the hell, a man can always use a mess of pottage. said...


I'm back. Had to do a little dumpster diving.
Caught by the security guard.
He seemed awfully aggressive--too much so.
I was almost tempted to ask a Nietzchean question, "Ecce Homo?"

Silly bastard new in town. Doesn't realize I own it. Heh.
"What are you doing around the dumpster?" he wanted to know.
"What are you doing out here? You should be in your kiosk...Sneakin' a smoke, were ya?"
I think I'd better find a better "grocery store" The dompster next door has stuff wrapped in cellophane. I can window shop! said...

Hi Tanya.

If I remember correctly, you have done some freelance writing work.
Glad to see your blog is up and running again. We missed you.

Ivan said...


Who could not love you?
I have seen your picture au naturel and I have read your poetry.
Why does an idyllic number like you even bother to cast nets of love?
You say in German,

Als de nachthemelen val zal slapen wacht ik Afwijking en droom.

as the night skies fall asleep I will wait aberration and dream ????

Hey, I'm into aberration. :) said...

Goognight Tara.

I'll steal a little from Ulysses and hope you dream of men with lantern eyes.
Me? I was trying to be Diogenes but the bastards stole my lamp.


eric1313 said...

I thought you were hard at work on a new post--now I don't feel so bad for procrastinating.

Glad to see you knew I was joking. You always have something witty to say over at my place, anyway. Didn't mean to rile anyone like that.

What does that long German passage in Slaughterhouse Five mean? said...


You caght me and my little puppy.

Poundin' the pooch, I was.

As for the German translation, Tara would be so much better at it, though she has a Dutch inflection...Natural blonde?--all the better. I had to search around, because I don't trust my German...I mean, all things considered, who does? :)

The German passage by Goethe says, "From the dome of the Frauenkirche (a church) I saw the unpleasant rubble sitting in the middle of the beautiful order of the city.
The sexton praised the art of the architect who had built the church and dome bomb-proof for such an undesirable occasion. The sexton then pointed out the ruins on all sides and said "the enemy did that."

eric1313 said...


I've read that novel six times. It's just genius, I think. KVjr never wastes a single word.

I'm throwing together a post as we speak... something some friends and I wrote together a few months back.

Tara speaks with Dutch spangled Deutsch? My friend Annette's parents are both of the boat germans--Her mother's a Hamburger, and her father a Bavarian. They would talk to each other in German then erupt into arguement suddently when one said something the other didn't understand.

So I know what you mean about the peculiarities of both the people and the language--like a sopphisticated landmine; a marvel of engineering that will take your legs off in a flash...

eric1313 said...

Never feel bad about your spelling!

I look down at my keyboard too much and miss the worst typos. said...


Spelling? Dat sound German.

You love your wife, your family, your kinder?

Das iss not logical!/ :)

eric1313 said...

Yeah, her mom--the Hamburger--would tell me, "Eric Bachman... you have such a vondervul German name... you should marry our Annette..."

They named their children Annette, Sieglinda, Ursula, Mathias and Wolfgang. Like they didn't want their kids to ever have normal lives...

eric1313 said...

Annette was the most normal one, and when she got older, she had more tatoos than most sailors ever get.

She was a nice one, though. And a heck of an artist. Always loved those pretty artist women.

Heck, if they're good enough and smart enough, that makes them pretty. said...

German chicks are a gas.

(Whoops!...Uninteded humour).

No, they are really interesting, frustrating.

I slept with one some time ago and she wouldn't let me. Damn hard on the underwear and the libido. They seem to want to outdo your for some reason. The sex didn't work, so we tried scrabble. She knew I was a writer and this was all the worse. I think she got around 420 and me a couple of points below.
"But you played an elgegant game," she soothed while examining her nails.

The following week I got major column in a major newspaper and wrote about our game of scrabble.

The killer instinct takes many forms!

eric1313 said...

Ha. Hard on the underwear, indeed. But it's still nice to have been there. I don't too much mind having a warm bed, but I do know what you mean when great expectations get dashed on the rocks.

Go get'em, you old Siberian tiger... Triple-word score, if you can.

Anyway, I need to get this post going so I can maybe sleep.

Obviously, I'm an insomniac.

Until dawn,
then I can sleep just fine.

G'night. Don't let the nice dreams bite...

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...

Good Morning Ivan.

Rest well?

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...


I cast my net and some see it. But more often fear it, instead of letting it love them . My own fate-filled punishment I suppose. said...

Good morning, Tara.

You should be an idyll.

Like in the l938 Ivory Soap ads, I think...A little like Heiresschild's atavar.
Gossamer-winged, Gorgeous, sylphlike, and kneeling at the clear pool. Tinkerbelle.


I had better put a blog together.
Preserve my sanity.

Josie said...

Good heavens, Ivan. 80 comments? You are quickly becoming the king of the bloggers.


Heh, heh. said...


Oh PentaQuark really tries.

But he would be nowhere without the supporting army of Quarks, the lady army.

Quarkhood forever!